August 25 Update: Idaho Supreme Court Strikes Down New Ballot Initiative Restrictions.
No. 51 Again
The sad truth is that Idaho is dead last when it comes to per-student funding of K-12 public education. This unavoidable reality was confirmed by IDEDNEWS.org [No. 51, again: IEA decries Idaho’s per-pupil spending]. Due to our state’s anemic education funding, the already-low salaries of Idaho teachers decreased by an average of nine-hundred dollars last year. Consequently, 10% of Idaho teachers either left the profession or now choose to work outside the state. Rural schools are hit the hardest. Because the money is not available, many are dropping career technical education classes like welding, ag business, and computer science. Just when these skills are increasingly in demand.
We Are Getting No Help from Our Legislature
Idaho’s restrictive policies toward school funding deny our kids access to educational opportunities that were once taken for granted. Sadly, the Republican supermajority legislature and governor prefer to put the needs of corporations and the wealthy ahead of public education. That is why Reclaim Idaho is leading the effort to put the issue of funding education before the voters. Their ballot initiative is called the Quality Education Act (QEA).
Quality Education Act
The QEA allocates over $300 million annually in K-12 education. Moreover, it will not raise taxes on anyone making under $250k per year (or couples making under $500k per year). In fact, the modest tax increase applies solely to corporations and individuals with income exceeding $250k per year /couples with income exceeding $500k per year. The new funding would apply towards expanding career-technical education, creating a competitive teacher and staff salary structure, expanding to full-day kindergarten, and restricting class-size.
To get this measure on the ballot, requires gathering 65,000 signatures from all over Idaho. Just like Medicaid Expansion in 2018, the new initiative is headed up by Reclaim Idaho. It will coordinate the state-wide effort to gather voter signatures. This process won’t be easy because following the successful Medicaid Expansion initiative, the Idaho legislature added additional hurdles to make voter-led initiatives harder to implement.
So, if you want a better future for our kids, please support this citizen led initiative. With your help Reclaim Idaho will succeed in gathering the signatures required to get this issue on the ballot. Tamara Sines-Kermelis is the Kootenai County Reclaim Idaho leader. She is organizing signature gathering opportunities in our area. If you can help with the campaign, please go to Reclaim Idaho and sign up to join your local team.