If Rep. Ronald Nate (R-Rexburg) is successful in shepherding HJR 1 through the legislative process, Idaho’s state constitution could be changed to allow for tax dollars to be diverted from public schools to private and religious-based schools.
Idaho is not alone in facing this affront to public education—Maryland and a number of other states are also dealing with initiatives designed to erode public education. It is fairly easy to conclude that there is a coordinated effort by so called “school choice” advocates to commercialize and monetize the public education landscape. These initiatives are known by different names, such as vouchers, school choice, and education savings accounts, but the bottom line with all of them is that they siphon much-needed funding away from public schools and jeopardize educational opportunities for all students. The Idaho Education Association is adamantly opposed to this concept in all of its different forms. Our national partner, the NEA has some great resources that shed more light on these proposals and policies.
We encourage you to make your voice heard in opposition to HJR 1. Our concerns about this proposal include:
- At a time when Idaho public schools are just beginning to recover from the drastic budget cuts of the recession, this plan would make considerably less money available for the schools and students that need it most.
- Rather than serving as a leg-up for disadvantaged students, voucher plans have become entitlement programs for families of students who already have the financial means to attend private schools.
- Private and religious-based schools have less oversight and accountability than public schools and almost complete autonomy to do what they want.
The process to get a constitutional amendment on the November ballot is demanding. First, the House and the Senate must both approve HJR 1 by a 2/3 majority vote. Then, Idaho voters would need to approve the measure by a majority vote. It is important to note that a significant number of house members have already signed on to co-sponsor the legislation, as have a handful of senators. We urge you to contact House Education Committee members. Don’t be fooled by the buzzwords—ask the House Education Committee to reject HJR 1.
Ybarra to Discuss Funding Priorities
We expect the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee hearing room to be packed on Thursday as Superintendent Sherri Ybarra provides lawmakers with a detailed review of her FY17 K-12 funding priorities.
Governor Otter proposed a 7.9% increase in education funding—fully $6 million more than the superintendent’s request. Both budgets make a commitment to fully fund the second year of the Career Ladder and bring operational funds back to 2009 levels. They both continue to advance the governor’s task force recommendations by providing additional funding for technology, professional development, and literacy. However, how that money will be distributed and the policy that is connected to the funding is still up for debate and will be the focus of much discussion during this session.
The IEA continues to voice our expectation that lawmakers will fully fund the second year of the career ladder, that districts will receive funding to develop mentoring programs, provide training and release time for mentors and their protégés, and that operational funding be increased to at least 2009 levels. Superintendent Ybarra’s presentation is the next step in process of setting an education budget for the 2016-2017 school year.