The House Education Committee will take up the private school voucher bill (HB 590) Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. Because so many people are expected to attend and/or testify, the meeting has been moved to the Lincoln Auditorium. The IEA encourages you to join us in opposing this bill, and to attend the hearing even if you prefer not to testify. Please let us know if you plan on attending the House Education Committee meeting and if you would like to join us for lunch at IEA headquarters afterward. Those wishing to listen to the meeting can follow along via live streaming through Idaho in Session.
Even more opposition to this legislation is surfacing, with Boise School District Superintendent Dr. Don Coberly posting a blog outlining the potentially detrimental effects of the bill. He also points out the dismal results from other states that have tried private school vouchers. This comes on the heels of the Idaho PTA sending a letter to members of the House and Education Committees opposing HB 590. The Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, and the Idaho Association of School Administrators have already issued a joint statement opposing this controversial bill.
Information about the harmful effects of private school vouchers can be found on the Protect Idaho’s Public Schools web page. There are several reasons stakeholder groups are lining up in opposition to this bill, but one that was brought up in earlier discussion in the House Education Committee seems to be resonating. IF this bill is what proponents say it is—a scholarship bill with no fiscal impact on state funds—then its mission can be accomplished through private administration and does not need legislative approval. There is still time to e-mail members of the House Education Committee tonight to share your opinion about HB 590.
Suicide Prevention Bill Sent to House Floor
The House Education Committee unanimously passed a bill to provide more training to teachers and other education professionals in hopes of reducing incidents of suicide among students. HB 634, sponsored by Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, would encourage districts to develop training for “gatekeepers” who would learn to identify early signs of mental illness and depression in students.
This legislation received strong, and sometimes emotional support from the House Education Committee. “This is one of the most important bills of the entire session,” said Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene. Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, noted that the bill maintains a position of no legal liability for professional educators. HB 634 now moves to the House floor.
Rural Loan Forgiveness Bill Sent to General Orders
A bill designed to give rural schools “another tool in their toolbox” to recruit and retain teachers, HB 504, failed to clear the House Education Committee after more than an hour of testimony and discussion. This legislation, sponsored by IEA member Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, would have established a loan forgiveness program to assist rural and economically disadvantaged schools. While all committee members acknowledged the severe problem of teacher shortages in rural schools, there was not sufficient support for HB 504 in its current form, and it was sent to general orders for amendments. Typically, that procedural move means that a bill is dead for the session. Read more about the discussion on the loan forgiveness bill from Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News.
Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy Has Concerns About Tax Cut Bill
With a Senate vote looming Wednesday for a tax cut bill, the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy has expressed concerns about the legislation. Here is their position on HB 463…
The Senate will likely vote tomorrow on a tax bill that will significantly and permanently reduce revenue available for public schools now and for many years ahead. HB463 will reduce revenue by $200 million dollars primarily by reducing tax rates for the wealthiest Idahoans and creating new carve-outs for corporations and large businesses. That means our revenue system will be less likely to raise adequate funds in a downturn, prompting deep cuts to the education budget similar to the last recession.
This tax bill has also been widely reported to actually raise taxes on larger families in the state, prompting key lawmakers to have doubts about this proposal. Senators have the opportunity to make changes to this bill on the floor that would avoid a huge hit to schools and families while meeting tax policy goals for the year.
Click here to access the Idaho Center for Public Policy website.