Participants in IEA’s GEMs (Growing Engaged Members) initiative are hard at work preparing IEA members to lobby Idaho lawmakers.
This January, the Idaho legislature will decide how to spend a record $330 million investment in K-12 classrooms set aside by lawmakers during September’s special legislative session. To ensure that funding is spent on improving public education for all Idaho students, IEA GEMs are educating and training fellow IEA members from southwest Idaho to be on-hand at the Statehouse this January.
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“IEA members are Idaho’s most important education policy experts and their perspective can transform the perspective of policymakers” said Eliza Walton, an IEA member organizer and coordinator for the GEMs program. “That’s why we are putting together a paid team of trusted and respected educators to engage community members and fellow educators in the legislative process.”
Pro-education policy priorities include funding for improved salary and benefits for all educators, better student mental healthcare access and more funding for school facilities improvement. Also of particular concern for IEA members is the likely introduction of voucher legislation.
To prepare for these policy discussions with lawmakers, the IEA GEMs team is receiving in-depth training on public education advocacy and IEA members’ legislative priorities from IEA’s government relations team. Organizing IEA members to attend the annual IEA Lobby Day on Jan. 16 is a top priority.
Vouchers are taxpayer-funded government subsidies for private schools and vendors that syphon scarce and desperately needed tax dollars away from public school classrooms with no accountability for results. Often proposed under the seemingly benign guise of “school choice” or “parental choice,” vouchers reduce fair access to educational opportunity, weaken rights for students with disabilities and expose taxpayers to fraud.
While previous attempts at bringing vouchers to Idaho were thwarted, enemies of public education are likely push new legislation hard this winter. Some lawmakers openly discussed using this new funding for vouchers during September’s special session.