Reclaim Idaho responds to Governor Little’s K-12 funding proposal

On Saturday afternoon Reclaim Idaho  collected signatures for their Quality Education Act...
On Saturday afternoon Reclaim Idaho collected signatures for their Quality Education Act Initiative, which would increase funding for K-12 education by over $300 million annually.(SK)
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:16 PM MST
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Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — The group Reclaim Idaho is applauding Governor Brad Little’s proposed plan to increase K-12 funding next year by 11 percent, and invest 1.1 billion over the next five years. However, they also believe the investment falls short of what is needed to improve public education in Idaho.

During his State of State address, Governor Little said the students we will invest in today will be our, “engineers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers” for tomorrow. The statement received applause from other lawmakers in attendance.

Some of the highlights from the governor’s K-12 education plan proposal are an additional $47 million for literacy programs, a 10% increase in pay for Idaho teachers, $1,000 bonuses for all teachers in the current year to reflect the increased workload due to the pandemic, 5% increase in compensation for all classified staff, and an increase in the state’s ongoing contribution for teacher health insurance premiums by approximately $4,000 per teacher and classified staff.

K-12 funding proposal
K-12 funding proposal(SK)

“In his state of the state address he indicated a strong investment in education in many different ways and that’s important to anyone who supports education,” said Representative Lance Clow of District 24.

All-day kindergarten is something that has been talked about a lot by Governor LIttle, and something he would like to see the legislature fund this session. Clow said one of the struggles with all-day kindergarten is the legislature can fund it, but will there be enough staff in the school districts to implement it? The schools like many sectors in the state are dealing with staffing shortages. Clow said all-day kindergarten will be something that is heavily discussed by the legislature this session, and how it can be properly funded and implemented.

The group Reclaim Idaho said the governor’s proposal is a positive step in the right direction, but even if the governor’s plan is fully implemented Idaho would likely remain dead last among the 50 states in K-12 funding, and during this time of COVID it’s more important than ever to fully fund education.

“We know that educators are not just dealing with an underfunded education system; they are also dealing with stressors that they never encountered before,” said Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville.

Reclaim Idaho is working to put the Quality Education Act Initiative on the Fall ballot. If passed, it would invest $1.9 billion in public education over the next five years. The group also says the biggest difference is-- their plan is sustainable

Quality Education Act ballot initiative
Quality Education Act ballot initiative(SK)

“In some of the education funding increases the governor has pointed to, some of them come from federal dollars, which is one-time funding. The governor’s plan does include a lot of state dollars as well,” said Mayville. " He has only forecasted into the next five years. He has only provided details for the next year or so. Our quality Education Act ballot initiative is permanent. it would be well over $300 million a year, for as long as it exists.”

However, Clow has some reservations about the Quality Education Act initiative, because it would increase taxes.

“Reclaim Idaho, the problem there is they are trying to legislate through the public with motion over stuff that is very fiscally important to manage,” said Clow. “I looked at their bill. I have heard of people collecting signatures, and not even talking about taxes. Their bill is all about raising taxes.”

According to Reclaim Idaho:

The Quality Education Act is paid for by a modest tax increase for corporations and the wealthiest Idahoans. The initiative does not raise taxes on anyone making under $250,000 per year. Individuals earning over $250,000 would pay new taxes only on the income they earn above $250,000. Married couples would pay new taxes only on the income they earn above $500,000.

Reclaim Idaho

Mayville said so far his ballot initiative has 43,000 signatures, and they need 65,000 by May 1. 2022. In the end, he thinks the governor’s plan is a solid one, and with talks of school choice, critical race theory, he hopes the legislature does the right thing and funds K-12 education.

“Our constitution in the State of Idaho requires a public school system and a quality public education for every Idaho child,” Mayville said, “It is anyone’s best guess what the legislature will do in the upcoming months,” Mayville said.

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