I’m skeptical enough about education funding that, when I learned that Governor Little was proposing a $300 million increase (11%), I thought that might be enough to get us out of last place in the nation, but not enough to make class sizes smaller.
Then I got a press release from TOADS–Totally Optimistic Advocates Dedicated to Students–that wasn’t that optimistic. According to this Meridian-based group, if we figure in student growth and two-years inflation, the amount schools need to maintain the present support per student is $350 million.
No doubt schools must continue to ask voters to raise their own taxes. Today will decide the fate of $288.4 million in school bonds and levies.
Over $175 million of the requests are for new buildings. Vallivue is seeking $55 million to finance two new elementary schools. The district has 46 classrooms now in temporary buildings and permits have been issued for construction of 12,500 new homes in the district.
Idaho’s Constitution requires that bonds get a two-thirds majority to pass. That means Vallivue’s last bond election, with 1615 for and 806 against, was a squeaker–a victory by only a single vote.
Kentucky is the only other state that requires a two-thirds majority. A handful of states, including Washington, require 60%.
Another $85 million of the spending being voted on today is for supplemental levies to bolster schools’ general funds. The money often goes for additional electives, equipment, or kindergarten or afterschool programs. These levies pass with a simple majority.
In addition, $26 million in plant facilities levies are up to a vote, some requiring a 55% majority and others, 60%. That depends “on the percent of district market value levied” (IdEdNews).
Idaho voters have reacted to the legislature’s failure to adequately fund schools by passing increasing amounts of levies and bonds year after year, but not every district is successful.
A report from the Office of Performance Evaluations, estimates Idaho needs to invest nearly $850 million if we’re to bring school buildings in “poor” or “fair” condition up to “good.” That doesn’t include the cost of building for increasing numbers of students.
Getting people to raise their own taxes can be difficult. Yet, every session the legislature considers measures to make it even harder. Last year the House passed HB 106 to eliminate the August election date by a 45-24 vote. The bill died in a Senate committee.
This year the House passed HB 512 to require an 11-month wait before a failed bond could be brought to the voters again. It passed with nearly the same vote, 43-26, and now sits in a Senate committee.
Those votes indicate we need to replace at least 20 Republican representatives if we want the state to fund schools responsibly.
A half dozen states restrict how soon a bond can be reintroduced. Iowa allows a new vote after 60 days–less than the time between any of Idaho’s four allowed election days. Only Indiana and Kansas require waiting for a full year (Ballotpedia).
Remember that $1.9 billion surplus this legislature had to work with this year? Democrats proposed allotting $250 million to help school districts to build new buildings or pay off bonds. It would have saved voters thousands in interest.
Republicans wouldn’t consider that, but they did like the idea of paying off the state’s bonds.
And Republicans refuse to classify school buildings or libraries as “public buildings” eligible to collect impact fees on new construction.
Voters today can be certain our legislature is not going to provide for their schools. Vote as though our kids’ futures depend on you. They do.