Don't siphon scarce public dollars to subsidize Idaho's private schools

A draft of our Sunday editorial.

Let’s restate what should be the obvious: Idaho’s schools are hardly flush with ­money.

Idaho’s per-pupil spending remains mired at next to the last in the nation, exceeding only Utah.

The state’s K-12 budget is still struggling to make up ground lost during the Great Recession. The 2012-13 general fund budget for K-12 is $1.28 billion, or $11.8 million less than 2007-08.

In an attempt to backfill the budgets, school districts have been forced to seek local property tax levies — provided voters are willing to say yes. In many cases, and much to their credit, voters have stepped up. As former state economist
Michael Ferguson points out in a Reader’s View today, supplemental levies totaled $169 million in 2012, up 20 percent from the previous year.

And on Wednesday, even Gov. Butch Otter was forced to fess up. During a speech at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho’s annual conference, Otter fielded a question from the floor — and from none other than Ferguson. The question: Is Idaho meeting the state’s constitutional requirement to “maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools?”

Said Otter, “I would say that we’re probably not, but we’re doing the best job we can and we’re going to continue to do the best job that we can.”

Nowhere does the Constitution suggest grading on effort. But even at that, doing “the best job that we can” should mean Idaho prioritizes public school funding over cynical gambits that use public money to subsidize the private education system.

One such gambit surfaced during the 2012 legislative session — and could return in 2013. This bill would provide an income tax credit to people and companies who donate to private schools scholarship funds.

It is, pure and simple, a money shift. Every dollar donated under this scheme — every dollar handed back to Idahoans in the form of tax credits — is a dollar that wouldn’t be available to fund state programs. And since K-12 is the single largest recipient of state general fund dollars, it stands to reason that K-12 would bear the brunt.

The state’s public schools cannot afford this hit.

Neither can property owners, who would inevitably foot the bill for the Legislature’s “charity.”

That’s where this shell game inevitably leads. Chip away at state support for K-12, and districts will be left little resource but to go back to the voters, and the unpopular property tax.

It’s a question of priorities, and what the Legislature does with budgetary breathing room. State tax collections are continuing their gradual rebound — $874.7 million for the first four months of the budget year, up from $842.3 million the previous year.

Does Idaho use that money to continue to build back the K-12 budget? Or does it use tax policy to foster the privatization of Idaho education?

Then there is the matter of the Constitution.

First, there is the constitutional mandate to provide “general, uniform and thorough” public schools. Remember? This is the mandate Otter says the state is “probably not” meeting.

Second, there is an open question of whether this tax credit plan is even constitutional, or a violation of the Constitution’s ban on putting public money into parochial schools.

As Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, told the Associated Press: “You can do workaround to the Constitution all you want, and at some point, you destroy the soul of that document.”

Maybe this “workaround” is constitutional, or maybe not. Two attorney general’s opinions, from 1995 and 1997, reach two differing conclusions. Sounds like this legislation is a test case waiting to happen.

There is no question, though, about what the Constitution has to say about funding public education. So let’s put our dollars there.

And every student

That transfers to a private school is one less that the state's public education system has to fund. Meanwhile that students parents continue to fund the public school system as well as support their child's private school education through the taxes they pay. Kevin. Kevin you are entitled to your somewhat uninformed opinion however your teachers union bias's have long been obvious.

Good points which should be

Good points which should be noted by all. Additionally, is the problem of families with many children who pay the same and quite often less than those families without children. A family credit or tax deduction should be equal for all tax filers.

Good luck....The haves will always pay for the

have nots....

too many kids with no two parents, and too many kids with welfare funding has to come somewhere and it will always be to those who have worked and lived somewhat responsibly and have home ownership....

Im not blaming the kids, I feel bad for them....

The US system is rewarding the lazy, just the way it is until it collapses....

Right on!

You are absolutely right on with your post fastsaluki. Parents who choose to send their kids to private schools not only get to pay for their children's private education, but also taxes and bonds to help support public education of non-private school students. My kids go to a private school and cost the state absolutely nothing in education, yet I still get to pay taxes for public education! I'm all for supporting both public and private eduction as education is very important, but it seems to me there is a better way to handle those who choose to send their children to private schools.

Education is education....We still need to be


I thought dems were pro-choice....

Well here is pro-choice in education....there is nothing wrong with public and charter schools. And yes, I usually vote yes when school bonds are an issue....

PS public schools are always wanting smaller cla$$ sizes, well here it is.

KR and his situational ethics.....

His concerns over the use of tax dollars, government spending, the Governor's policies and State Government's compliance with the Constitution are noble -- too bad he has no such interest in these issues as they apply to the Federal Government.

So tired of your ragging on

tetpilot, So tired of your ragging on KR about federal issues. What's your problem? You do realize the statesman is an area news paper not a national one. If you don't like the lack of comment re federal then don't read this news. Get a life and quit hassling KR. Its old and disgusting.

Kind of true though....all KR writes about are something bad

about republicans....

It is like Republicans are bad, and Democrats are good....

Although Idaho is a very good state to live in, it must be those evil Republicans doing something wrong....if we only had more Democrats like California, or Seattle Washington--then we would see the good the dems can bring to Idaho....

The Idaho Statesman should rename to 'The Democrat Statesman'

I'm paying for a news service....

Not some local pamphlet. When my subscription costs go up I expect a better service. If the Statesman has met the low standards you set for them fine - I expect a greater ROI.

If he pays for it...and doesn't have to...

There was a difference between this paper and the Sacramento Bee when I looked.

California is in a lot worse shape than Idaho...Washington State is as well YET...

The journalists seem in better touch with their readers and they in turn are HAPPIER, or at least friendlier.

Kevin encouraged this's not like you can control it...or you could if you weren't playing it for the circus.

Like KTVB says, they don't charge, even if I find their website mediocre, even if you can find out more than you can here initially.

Reporting the news without expecting you to come back and learn the rest later works much better. There is enough crap happening in the area to write 7 issues a day without relying on Yahoo and syndicated columnists for your life.

The ecology will not go down the toilet tomorrow. Realistic writing will work wonders and you needn't be an advertisement disguised as a story to sell recycled trees and server space.

Why is Sacramento different than Boise in that respect? A newspaper is it's creators and their perception of the readers. Something is lost among the static.

PS You are shooting yourself in the other foot by allowing an add to run in the bottom banner of for some site that says you can read the Statesman free with their service, which is probably dubious anyway. One surmises you just don't care anymore.


Apple users, run the Gig of RAM your PC needs to have and read the dumb tech white papers, wrinkle your forehead and buy more food and toilet paper with the difference. The internet is a piece of junk anyway and your cats know this.


This has been going on around the country folks. Don't be fooled. There is alot of money to be made in privatization of anything publicly owned. The reason the teachers unions are being vilified is because when the corporate owners take over, they can hire cheap labor for teachers. With a strong union, they can't fire teachers or lower their wages. So that's first on the agenda. When profit comes into play with privatization, which doesn't exist with publicly owned schools, the corporate owner has to cut everything possible to profit. So, cheap labor is important. The reason the state is starving our schools of funds and requiring the testing is so they can push them to fail. This convinces the public that the schools need to close and privatize. When they are privatized, taxpayers don't have any control of their kids' education. The tax dollars still pay for the private schools. If a person wants to open a school, fine, let them pay for it completely and try to raise the revenue. Our tax dollars need to go to our current schools that we the tax payers have built and contributed to. Our leaders want them to fail that's why they don't care if more money is siphoned from them. They want them privatized. This isn't party affiliated either, both parties are doing this take over of the school systems. I can tell that most of the people commenting here are probably going to profit from the takeover. Citizens are aware of what's going on though and aren't going to allow it. We are educated. We do pay attention to what's going on around the country and we do like our teachers to make a decent wage. I am a citizen of Idaho, I have kids in our schools. I'm appalled at the attacks on teachers, the tax cuts for the rich in this state instead of funding our schools and the lies.

I agree with most of your post

Except the part that it is not party driven. Back in Wisconsin, Walker's trouncing of education was party driven. I think it is here, too.

Of course how the heck would one know in Idaho, since there is very little non-gop representation.

I think additionally these privatization interests want to control what information is approved to reveal to the children by the minimum wage educators of the future. You are welcome to read that as ultra-conservative, bible based propaganda selectively spoon fed to kids by otherwise unemployable individuals if you so choose.

In my lifetime the Grand Old Party has transformed from a reasonable and logical alternative to a tax payment-evading, tax fund grabbing, morality by law, economic idealogues' fiasco. Kind of a shame. Oh well.

In Chicago, it's a democrat.

In Chicago, it's a democrat. I believe the mayor of New York is a dem. too. Not sure.

My party “jumped the shark” the past two sessions

Until the last election I had only voted for one national Dem my entire life. All politics are local. My party “jumped the shark” the past two sessions in Idaho. We used to be the party of transparency, honest government, and capable leaders. The “baby steps to ethics boys” in our Idaho Legislature broke the trust of Idaho Citizens.

Regarding the troubled For-profit education industry please refer to past SEC and/or EEOC investigations of K-12 Corporation, Apollo Group/University of Phoenix and others. The Harkins federal investigations of the For-profit education industry. The 2010 Frontline investigation the For-profit education industry. The more recent Frontline investigation of abuse of Veterans by the For-profit education industry. The Education Trust Report-Subprime. The Multistate Attorneys General investigation of the For-profit education industry. The For-profit education industry has powerful lobbyists.

Private nonprofits schools should not compete for public money with Public Schools. Refer to transparency, public trust issues even with charter schools within the public school system in Arizona. Big money can be made by investors and board members in the private and charter school busines.

"Fire up the jet baby, we're going to El Paso!!" Mike Scanlon: "I want all their MONEY!!!" Email interchange between Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, February 6, 2002


Has it occurred to you that it is the irresponsible behavior of the teachers union, the IEA and the irresponsible behavior of a small number teachers and administrators have brought concern? Has it occurred to you and Socialists like you, and teachers unions that advocate for Socialism and are members of activist Socialist groups, that you are a large part of the "problems" that have resulted in the vilification of teachers unions as well as some minority of members of the teaching profession? You surely are one naive individual if you expect the majority of the taxpayers and most of the teachers of this state to roll over and adopt your Socialist lies and nonsense.

Nope. I blame everybody.


Apple users, run the Gig of RAM your PC needs to have and read the dumb tech white papers, wrinkle your forehead and buy more food and toilet paper with the difference. The internet is a piece of junk anyway and your cats know this.

At least

You are impartial. Aren't You?

None of this is happening by accident . . .

In a recent blog post, former US Assistant Secretary of Education and noted education historian Diane Ravitch introduces an article written by a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, an article that refutes many of the arguments for the role of charter and private schools in the so-called "ed reform" or "choice" movement. In writing about the article, Dr. Ravitch nicely summarizes the motives and strategies of those who wish to dismantle public education in the name of "choice" and "reform."

Dr. Ravitch writes:

With each new expansion of charters, the public is assured that “charters are public schools,” and “competition will be good for everyone,” and “everyone should have choice.”

But as this article explains, there is another agenda at work.

The author, a former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party, explains the agenda. The current public school system will turn into the equivalent of “public welfare” schools, akin to public housing or public transit, the schools of last resort for those who are can’t find an alternative. The new schools–the charters, for example–are what he calls “neo-radical” schools, the schools that welcome the strong and willing.

The author makes clear that “reform” movement is not for “reform” of existing schools but for privatization to the maximum extent possible with government money.

The new schools will be privately managed and publicly funded with minimal government oversight.

The schools that are left behind as “public schools” will be dumping ground for the children who are most difficult or most expensive to educate.

With this transformation, the privatizers will recreate a dual school system, based not on lines of race, as in the past, but on lines of class.

This is the goal–intended in some cases, unintended in others–of the current privatization movement: A dual school system: one system for the good kids, the other for those who were rejected or unwanted by the other system. The latter system, now known as “public schools,” will house disproportionate numbers of students who are learning English, students with disabilities, students with behavior problems, and students who can’t get higher scores every year.

And thus dies the common school idea.

See the article she refers to here:

Are you a Left Wing Conspiracy

theorist Nut?

and we thought Watergate was a crime?

Build a bunker until better times. Yet, the dems have the prez and senate, can they lead?

Are you a Left Wing Conspiracy

theorist Nut?

and we thought Watergate was a crime?

Build a bunker until better times. Yet, the dems have the prez and senate, can they lead?

People have

The right to make free choices regarding the education of their children Comrade Gatz. Comrade Ravitz wishes to control that right through teachers union activism.

People have been voting

With their feet for the last 60 years by relocating to places where their children had the the best education opportunities. The blacks left their segregated schools and limited opportunities in the South for the Northern cities in the 1940s 50s and 60s. The Whites fled the their changed neighborhoods and and went to the suburbs and the cities of the West Coast in the 50s and 60s. In the 60s and 70s "busing" was introduced and people who could afford it placed their kids in private schools. Diane Ravitch is a "hero of Socialist Education" Comrade Gatz, and you are a Socialist prevaricator with a Socialist agenda.

Democrat, Republican, Independent

Bloomberg has been all according to various news sources dated June of 2007, when he switched to Independent from Republican. He had previously switched from Democrat to Republican in 2001 to run for Mayor, this according to NYT and Fox news.

I do see your point in Chicago.

Public funding of private schools

Any veteran who uses the GI Bill---which is funded by the public---is free to use GI Bill money to enroll in either public or private schools. Our military vets and family members--can use their GI Bill money to attend BSU, U of I, NNU, BYU, Notre Dame, etc. Any school--public or private--as long as it is accredited. Also, for non-vets, federal Pell Grants are available for use in both state or private schools.


The article you're commenting on is about public K12 schools, not institutions of higher education. It is also about the use of state tax money, not federal.

Public. Private. Nonprofit. For-profit.

Correct. At the College University level most excellent not-for-profit private schools like Stanford, USC, NNU, C of I, George Fox all accept public funds..

For-profit colleges and Universities also accept public funds. At the post secondary level the Harkins Federal investigation exposed abuse of veterans by many For-profit colleges and Universities as did the recent Frontline investigation and the multistate Attorney’s General investigation. Reference the President’s executive order to prevent abuse of veterans and their limited GI benefits.

One remedy implemented at the Federal level applied veterans benefits to the 90/10 rule the same as other Federal student benefits. Before that, a veteran’s benefit was applied the same to the 90/10 as an employer tuition benefit.

Note the collusion between the State and the For-profit school in the following article.