More than 20 volunteers attended a Reclaim Idaho meeting in Idaho Falls Saturday to begin the push to collect signatures for the group’s education initiative.
The city was one of many stops that Reclaim was making across the state for its ”20 Days of Action” tour. Initiative co-founder Luke Mayville and volunteers from the state and regional levels were touring cities to pass out signature clipboards and give volunteers information on how to answer questions about the “Invest in Idaho” push for education funding.
The budget proposed by Gov. Brad Little gives $2 billion for K-12 education in Idaho, including nearly $38 million for increased teacher pay. Invest in Idaho’s initiative is projected to raise an additional $170 million in education funding for public schools, with a particular focus on increasing pay for highly qualified teachers and providing more career technical programs.
“If Gov. Little’s plan is passed by the Legislature, it’s still not on the scale needed to make our schools competitive. The investments being proposed are the minimum, just enough to keep Idaho schools treading water,” Mayville said.
The money raised, as Mayville explained to the volunteers, would come from restoring the corporate tax rate to the level it was in 2000 and by raising income taxes on individuals making more than $250,000 a year and married couples making more than $500,000 per year. It would also be guaranteed to not go towards the salaries of superintendents or other administrators.
One of Reclaim Idaho’s main selling points for the initiative was that it would reduce many school’s reliance on supplemental levies for their budget. Volunteer Levi Cavener is a teacher in Vallivue School District, which is currently considering a two-year supplemental levy for $4.5 million.
“If that doesn’t pass, we are going to lose a lot of funds. That shouldn’t be the case to pay for schools,” Cavener said.
Several of the volunteers present had helped Reclaim collect signatures in 2018 to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot and were returning to assist with education funding. They shared tips about the best places in Idaho Falls to canvass and how to coordinate efforts to avoid visiting the same homes over and over.
“I was just asking my neighbor, ‘How do the new places at the (INL) site get any local interest when our education is so far behind?’” said Sharon Coyle, a local woman who came out on Saturday because she was disappointed by the state of Idaho’s schools.
The initiative needs to collect about 55,000 total signatures to be put on the ballot, including 6% of signatures from registered voters in 18 legislative districts. Mayville asked the Idaho Falls volunteers to focus on getting at least 1,300 signatures in District 33, which contains the majority of Idaho Falls’ population, before trying to qualify any additional districts.
The deadline for signatures is April 30. Mayville said the effort has already collected around 15,000 signatures from across the state, and he expected districts would start hitting the 6% goal by the end of the month.
Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.
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