Senate Rejects Extreme Voucher Bill in Lopsided Vote

On Monday, the full Idaho Senate voted 12-23 against Senate Bill 1038 — an extreme voucher bill copied directly from controversial legislation enacted in Arizona and co-sponsored by Sen. Tammy Nichols (R-Middleton) and Sen. Brian Lenney (R-Nampa).

The defeat of Senate Bill 1038 was “a significant win for public education and a massive hit to ‘school choice’ profiteers,” wrote Idaho Education Association President Layne McInelly in an email to members celebrating the bill’s demise. “Senate Bill 1038 was perhaps the most extreme type of voucher legislation the enemies of public education could have brought forward.”

McInelly gave IEA members a significant amount of credit for the association’s successful opposition to the bill after they sent thousands of emails to senators asking them to vote against the legislation.

The bill, which was endorsed by the Senate Education Committee last week, would have allowed the creation of “education savings accounts” using funds currently earmarked for K-12 public education that parents could use to pay for homeschooling their children or pay for private school tuition. Ultimately, the Senate rejected the legislation because of its potential cost to taxpayers and the lack of accountability taxpayers would have over money fed into the voucher scheme.

Originally, the bill’s sponsors claimed the bill’s fiscal impact to state coffers would only be $20 million. After questioning by other lawmakers, that figure was revised upward to $45 million.

Then, last week the non-partisan Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy released a report showing the real fiscal impact of Senate Bill 1038 would actually be $368.8 million by the year 2025.

“It’s actually against my conservative Republican perspective to hand this money out with no accountability that these precious tax dollars are being used wisely or that they are actually going to the good will of the students of the State of Idaho,” said Sen. Dave Lent (R-Idaho Falls), the chairman of the Senate Education Committee who voted against the bill in committee and on the Senate floor. Several other senators echoed his sentiments in voting against the bill.

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