A bill positioned as a “tuition tax credit” has been pulled a day after being introduced in Idaho’s House Revenue and Taxation Committee—but is being rewritten and is likely to be heard again. HB 234, sponsored by Rep. John Vander Woude (R-Nampa) would use a third-party scholarship organization to allow for donations to private and parochial schools in exchange for a tax credit. It is similar to legislation that has been brought forward in previous sessions. Then, as now, the Idaho Education Association and concerned citizens strenuously opposed the concept on a variety of grounds.
“This is recycled school voucher legislation that once again tries to circumvent the separation of church and state,” said IEA General Counsel Paul Stark. “There is no question in my mind that it would violate the state constitution; even if you could look past its other deficiencies.”
Proponents of vouchers and other “school choice” initiatives continue to ignore substantial evidence that shows they do not improve student achievement. This recent study by Professor Martin Carnoy from Stanford University is just one of many research projects that shoots holes in contentions that vouchers will provide better opportunities for students. Carnoy also points out that there are hidden costs associated with voucher programs, and that while they claim to create opportunities for disadvantaged children, the reality is that most allow schools to “cherry pick” the students they want.
The Idaho legislation is another attempt to divert tax-payer dollars to private and religious schools. In anticipation that this bill (or something similar) will resurface, please contact members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee and tell them to support public schools rather than weakening them by draining public resources for the benefit of private schools.
Ybarra’s Rural Education Plan Through to the Full House
After failing the get her Rural Schools Centers plan heard last year, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra received unanimous approval from the House Education Committee for a re-worked version of her initiative. Now branded as a Rural Education Support Network, the vision is for the program to allow and encourage a sharing of resources between schools in rural areas of the state. The initial $300,000 investment in the plan would come from the State Department of Education budget rather than the public schools budget. HB 223 could be voted on by the House early next week. Read more from Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News.
IEA Member Cliff Davis Honored in Legislature
Longtime IEA member Cliff Davis, currently teaching at Hillcrest High School in the Bonneville School District, was recognized by the Idaho Legislature earlier this week. Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) put forth a resolution in Davis’ honor that would establish March 3 as National Speech and Debate Education Day. Several states have already adopted resolutions to the effect, and you can find more info at https://www.speechanddebate.org/national-speech-debate-education-day/.
Davis is one of five finalists for the Educator of the Year Award from the National Speech and Debate Association, with the winner to be announced Friday. He was nominated for the award by his peers from Eastern Idaho. “It’s incredibly gratifying,” Davis said. “I love students and that’s why I do this, but year in and year out you work with your colleagues and build friendships. Davis has also been an English and debate teacher in the Teton and Shelley school districts.