Tax Breaks Over Public Schools, Luna Laws Redux, and More Bad Bills

Not one. Not a single piece of legislation has been proposed during this session that is supportive of public schools or aimed at helping students and schools recover from the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis. Instead, the legislature has focused on bills that cut taxes, curtail safety on campus, and neutralize the voices of educators, scientists, and citizens. This edition of the IEA Hotline spotlights a few of the most egregious proposals.

HB 199—Unnecessary Tax Breaks Prioritized Over Much-needed School Resources

A reminder to provide context—Idaho is last among the 50 states in per-student funding! Despite that troubling fact, legislators are seriously considering using the bulk of Idaho’s current budget surplus of more than $600 million for tax breaks that would primarily benefit the wealthiest of Idahoans rather than using the surplus to make a significant investment in our public schools.

HB 199, Sponsored by Rep. Steve Harris, R-Meridian, would cull about $264 million this year and about $450 million next year from the General Fund, essentially negating the budget surplus. “Our public schools are the ultimate example of how tax dollars can be used to create opportunities for success for the majority of Idahoans,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “It’s time to lift our state out of the basement in education funding and prioritize students, not go out of the way to provide more benefits to the affluent minority.”

HB 199 is expected to receive a full hearing of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, chaired by Rep. Harris, sometime next week. Contact members of this committee and tell them to vote NO on this bill.

For a more in-depth look at Idaho’s woeful investment in public education and the opportunity presented by the budget surplus, read McInelly’s Guest Opinion.

HB 174 is Luna Laws All Over Again

Introduced by Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, HB 174 would revisit a Luna Laws tenet of making it optional for school districts to negotiate with their local education association. Local bargaining ensures that the voices of educators are heard on issues such as collaboration and mentorship, mental health, and more. As the eyes and ears for kids every day, the educators in school buildings know best how to teach, care for, and protect students. This bill would also hinder teacher recruitment efforts in a state that already struggles with attrition rates well above the national average.

“This is another attempt to subvert the professional status of Idaho educators,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “The people have already spoken on this issue when they voted on Proposition 1 to overturn the disastrous Luna Laws.”

HB 174 could return to the House Education Committee for a full hearing at any time. Contact committee members and tell them to vote NO on this misguided legislation!

Another Private School Voucher Bill is Introduced

Yet another effort to divert public funds to private and parochial schools is underway. Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, and Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian, have introduced HB 215 that would establish private school vouchers, disguised as “grants” or “scholarships”. On top of constitutional concerns, the IEA opposes this legislation because it would siphon critical funds away from public schools (as noted above, already ranked 51st in per-student funding) and send them to private schools.

“Our public schools are inclusive and provide instruction and a full array of services for every student that walks through the door, while private schools are more selective, less accountable, and generally not required to provide ancillary services,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “It would be extremely inappropriate to allow public funds to be shifted to underwrite the expenses of private schools”.

Contact members of the House Education Committee and tell them to oppose HB 215.

Bill to Limit Ballot Initiatives Moves Forward

Despite overwhelming testimony in opposition, a bill that would make it much more difficult for citizens to put initiatives on the statewide ballot has passed the Senate State Affairs Committee. SB 1110 would require signatures from six percent of voters in every district in the state. This bill is touted as one that would ensure more rural representation, but that is a red herring for the legislature trying to stifle the voices of ordinary Idaho citizens. It is also a direct response to efforts aimed at putting a proposal on the ballot that would require the state to invest more in public education.

Read more about the restrictive and unreasonable legislation on ballot initiatives in this story from the Associated Press.

Stay up to date on the latest developments by following us on Facebook and Twitter (@IdahoEA).

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