As a lifelong educator and a candidate for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have something to ask of you: sign the petition to get the Quality Education Act on the ballot, and – if you can – help gather signatures.
Reclaim Idaho has until the 29th of April to get the required 65,000 valid signatures, including 2,000 from each of 18 legislative districts. A total of 90,000 are needed to be sure of getting 65,000 that are valid.
So far more than 83,000 Idahoans have signed on, but the deadline is fast approaching, and given the performance of the legislature over the past two decades, this may be our best and only chance to get the schools we and our children deserve.
For more than 20 years, the Idaho Legislature has underfunded public schools, to the point that we now rank dead-last among the 50 states in what we spend per student. To put it another way, education now gets a 25% lower share of Idaho’s personal income than it did in 2000. Those statistics are shameful.
Every district in the state has suffered, but rural and property-poor districts have suffered the most because they can’t pass supplemental levies the way richer districts often can. The Quality Education Act would make many of those levies unnecessary, ultimately lowering property taxes.
The Quality Education Act would raise about $323 million a year for schools, by returning the corporate income tax to 8%, where it was for years, and tacking on a 4.5% tax on income over $500,000 for a couple or $250,000 for an individual. I see nothing wrong in asking the people at the very top 1% on the income ladder to pay a little more for the most critical of government functions.
Our schools are the heart and soul of our communities, the driver of our economy, and our last and best bulwark against tyranny. They are the glue that holds us together as citizens in a democracy. There is no more important investment we can make than in our children and grandchildren.
It’s important to note that the new money would only be spent on the most basic things: teacher and support staff pay, vocational classes, and enrichment classes such as arts and music. It would not meet all the needs, but we are guaranteed that every dollar would go directly to our classrooms.
Many of those classrooms are overcrowded. The money from the Quality Education Act would reduce class size in many schools and keep them from getting any bigger in the others. It would also go a long way toward hiring and retaining the very best teachers we can find, instead of continuing to lose them to our neighboring states.
So please, do this today: Go to reclaimidaho.org and out how you can sign the petition. Better yet, take a shift gathering signatures. There’s really nothing more important you can do for our children’s future.