Idaho kills bill allowing public money for private education

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A House panel on Tuesday rejected legislation that opponents say would harm education by funneling more than $1 billion in public money to private and religious schools.

Funders had said the measure would have improved Idaho’s education through competition.

But that was too much of a change for a majority of House Education Committee members, who voted 8-7 to scrap the measure that would have allowed eligible families to get $6,000 per student in public or private private school tuition. Private lessons.

Funders had billed the measure as a Parent Choice Bill to give parents the option of sending their children to a private school using money from what the bill called the Hope and Opportunity Scholarships”.

Proponents said parents pay taxes into the system and should therefore be able to participate in a scheme to get money from the state to send their children to private school.

“It’s taxpayer funded,” said Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon, one of the bill’s sponsors. “It’s their money. Everyone keeps saying school district money. No, it’s our money.”

But opponents said the measure would have degraded public education and violated the Idaho Constitution, which requires a uniform system of free public education.

“What we would do here would be unconstitutional,” said Republican Representative Gary Marshall, a retired teacher. “We are clearly crossing that line.”

Some backers agreed with this assessment, but also said they disagreed with the Idaho Constitution and still supported the measure.

“This is an amendment that we should remove from our constitution,” Republican Rep. Judy Boyle said. “It’s a terrible thing, I think. It’s biased. It’s unfair, and we should never have included it in the beginning.

Republican Representative Julie Yamamoto, a retired teacher who voted to kill the bill, said the way to change the Idaho Constitution is not by passing an unconstitutional bill, but by passing a measure with a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate and then achieve a simple majority of Idaho voters in a general election.

“I told people in my community that I would be a principled representative, and my principles say I am not going against the state constitution,” she said.

In addition to discussing the bill’s constitutionality, lawmakers also took issue with the proposed cost. Moon and Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, another of the bill’s sponsors, said in the bill’s tax memo that in the first year it would have cost about $13 million.

But Democratic Rep. Steve Berch said that was a low number and that under the bill’s guidelines, more than 200,000 Idaho students would be eligible for a cost to taxpayers d about $1.2 billion.

“This is not a school choice bill. This is a bill that pays for someone else’s school choice,” Berch said. “This (bill) becomes the gateway for those who hope to create the opportunity to privatize education.”

Funders referenced a similar program in Arizona for comparison. But this program has a much more restrictive policy on who is eligible. The proposed Idaho bill was based on national criteria for a school lunch program, which Berch said made 68% of Idaho students eligible to get money to attend a private or religious school. .

Some lawmakers representing rural areas opposed the plan because they said it harmed rural areas without private schools. Most of Idaho’s 121 private schools are in more urban areas.

Republican Representative Ryan Kerby said he could not support the bill because it included private religious schools. He said his main concern was that these schools would be forced to water down their curriculum on issues such as gender issues and beliefs about marriage if they were to participate in the program and get the taxpayer money that had been provided to the parents for the payment of school fees.

“There is going to be pressure on schools to change,” he said, noting that he started working in education in the 1970s at a private Christian school. “I think we are going to lose, potentially, the purity of doctrine in our Catholic and Christian schools.”

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