A bill referencing the seemingly benign concept of “Guided Education Management” (GEM) scholarships was introduced in the House Education Committee Wednesday morning. Supporters of public education should be very concerned about RS 26177, which could send Idaho quickly down a slippery slope of diverting public tax dollars to private schools.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, and is expected to return to the House Education Committee for a full hearing in the next week or so. According to Rep. Vander Woude, the GEM scholarships would be available for qualified public school students, specifically those in one of four categories—low income, special needs, at risk, or children of active duty military personnel. They could be used for tuition, fees, and uniforms at private schools, along with a handful of other education-related expenses.
This bill is based on the assumption that public schools are not serving our most vulnerable students and that they would be better served by private schools. We have yet to see any data to support this assumption.
The IEA has many questions about this bill, which remain unanswered. Where is the funding for this private organization? Why is the Idaho Legislature even considering the creation of a pathway for private schools to poach public school students? Why would the Idaho legislature give the Idaho State Board of Education oversight over a private enterprise?
The Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, and the Idaho Association of School Administrators have issued a joint statement opposing private school vouchers in our state. “The IEA, ISBA, and IASA urge Idaho citizens to reject private school voucher plans which would compromise our public schools’ ability to serve students and communities in our great state.”
Click here to get more information about private school vouchers.
Senate Education Committee Hears Science Standards, No Vote Taken
As was the case when the House Education Committee heard public testimony on Idaho’s proposed science standards, the voice of the people was unanimous in favor of adopting the standards in full. Fourteen people testified in favor of the standards during the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday. Committee Chair Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, indicated that they will discuss and vote on the proposed standards at a later date.
The House Education Committee previously heard overwhelming testimony in favor of the science standards, but opted to remove one complete standard and all supporting content. As we reported in a previous Hotline, that leaves the Senate Education Committee with three options, one of which is to approve the proposed standards in their entirety.
Read more about the Senate Education Committee hearing from Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review.