The 2013 Idaho Legislature is under way, and there are 31 new faces in the Statehouse — 29 of them in the House of Representatives, largely due to redistricting.
To those who see an opportunity to make a name for themselves by proposing any bold education legislation, here’s some sage advice: don’t.
Many Republican legislators have expressed support for at least some components of the failed Students Come First plan, the bold, sweeping changes promoted by Superintendent Tom Luna and passed by lawmakers two years ago. Of course, those laws were put to voters in November and were rejected.
Gov. Butch Otter was one of the most vocal supporters of the laws and, of course, the governor has said he intends to seek re-election. Some are speculating he could face a GOP primary challenge from Rep. Raul Labrador, who has publicly stated that he’s mulling a gubernatorial run.
The Idaho House has new leadership under speaker Scott Bedke, and he would be well advised to urge his charges to wait until Otter’s education task force has completed its job before introducing any significant changes to education. Now is not the time for political posturing or grandstanding.
The task force Otter has assembled contains a good array of people from different backgrounds. Among the 31 on the group are representatives of higher education, digital learning, teacher’s unions, business — and, yes, the Idaho Legislature. It’s a good cross-section of interests, and they still have two more meetings scheduled — Jan. 25 and Feb. 28. Let’s see what they come up with before even thinking about drafting legislation. In all likelihood, that will mean waiting until the 2014 Legislature.
What about the unused money?
Of course, lawmakers still have to determine what they’ll do with the $45 million slated to go to Students Come First. Now that the laws have been rejected, there’s the matter of where that money will go.
Some are eying it as a potential replacement to revenue lost if the Legislature repeals the personal property tax on business.
Not wise. That would only be one-time money that would have to be replaced somehow in future years. Besides, given the way the state has scrimped on education spending the last few years, that $45 million should be used for education somehow, either in the state’s Education Stabilization Fund or distributed to districts to use at their discretion.
The lesson is this, lawmakers — heed the message sent by voters.
* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Kim Keller, Carlos Soriano and Ken Pieksma.