I first began to pay close attention to the Post Falls School District in 1995. Overcrowding in the elementary schools led the district to propose moving the kindergarten students to the old Frederick Post building. Half of the building served as the alternative high school — New Vision. The kindergarten would occupy the other half. At that time, I had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old. You could say I was very interested.
By 1997, overcrowding at the middle school resulted in middle school students being double shifted. The current Mullan Trail Elementary School was the middle school at that time. During this period of time, the district had experienced several bond failures. Finally, in 1998, that changed. The district passed a bond to build a new high school.
From that point on, bonds and levies received a massive amount of support, typically passing with a 74% “yes” vote. In response to growth, the district-built River City Middle School, West Ridge Elementary, Greensferry Elementary, and Treaty Rock Elementary — all with voter approval.
The failure of the levy in March was a very narrow but stunning defeat. The amount of disinformation about the levy and the efforts of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee to share that disinformation resulted in the defeat. I would like to address the statements made about our district.
In 1999, I was appointed to the Post Fall School Board. I have served in that position for more than 20 years. I can speak on these topics with a certain authority.
One piece of disinformation was the levy would increase taxes. That is simply not true. The levy amount requested was the same as two years ago. The vast majority of property owners will see a decrease in the amount they are paying for the levy. Why? Take a drive around town and out on the prairie. New houses and apartment buildings are popping up everywhere. More people means the cost of the levy is spread out among our growing population, and everyone pays less.
The KCRCC raised questions about our curriculum. All our curriculum is approved by the Board. Community members are free to ask to examine our textbooks. We actually have a member of the KCRCC on our board.
We have been accused of having excessive administrative costs. Again, that is not true. Our salaries for top administrators tend to run a bit below average. In addition, our district office is a very lean, well run machine. We have fewer top administrators than most districts our size.
It has been said we ought to “live within our means.” The fact is the state no longer provides the type of funding it did in the past. In 2006, then-Gov. Risch moved school funding from property taxes to sales taxes. He increased the sales tax by a penny to cover this. Arguments against this included the fact that sales tax is less stable than property tax and this could result in a shortfall.
Then came the Great Recession and a huge decrease in sales tax revenues. Funding to school districts dropped. I remember very solemn school board meetings where we talked about what we were going to cut. It was at this time school districts across the state turned to their communities and asked for help. Supplemental levies pay for essential services that the state no longer provides.
It has been suggested the Post Falls School District is failing its students. The average graduation rate in Idaho is 79%. Post Falls High School’s graduation rate is 92.5%. Ninety-five percent of Post Falls KTEC students leave with an industry certification. Approximately $300,000 of levy money goes to KTEC. If the levy fails, we will have to forgo our payment to KTEC or draw the money from other programs.
My husband and I have lived here for more than 30 years. Both our sons attended Post Falls schools from kindergarten through graduation. The community we know supports the children and schools of Post Falls. We urge that community to step up and vote “Yes” on May 18.
Michelle Lippert is a member of the Post Falls School Board.