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Just another broadside against Idaho public ed

Murf Raquet
March 20, 2013
Moscow-Pullman Daily News

It's no secret Idaho Republicans hold the state's Constitution near and dear. GOP legislators in Boise hold the document out as an instruction manual on how to run the government.

Unfortunately, it's their interpretation that's sometimes suspect despite attempted guidance by the state's court system - especially with public education.

Lawmakers are now attempting an end run around the part of the Constitution that prohibits "sectarian appropriation" from being used to support religious schools.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, would allow tax credits for people or businesses contributing to scholarship funds that benefit students attending private schools. The credits would be deducted from tax owed by the contributors.

Nonini estimates the bill could save the state $11 million a year in money that would otherwise be provided to public schools on a per student basis.

The theory is more parents will send their children to private schools if the scholarship funds help defray tuition. More children in private schools will decrease the number of children in the public schools thereby reducing the per pupil money the state pays.

What he doesn't brag about is with tax credits, money that would have been paid to the state instead goes to private schools. Kind of a roundabout state support.

"The net effect is, the funds of the state are reduced, and the funds of the private schools are increased," said Paul Stark, attorney for the Idaho Education Association, a foe of the bill. "For a public school there's no savings whatsoever."

School districts may save a bit in not having to educate students who opt for a private school, but schools still have fixed costs such as heating and cooling, and routine maintenance to pay for from the diminishing revenue.

We can't help think Nonini and other supporters would be happy indeed if the private schools flourished and the public schools and their state-mandated curricula all but disappeared.

Public education has served Idaho well since statehood. There's no good reason to undermine it with punitive legislation and the erosion of monetary support.

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