Opinion: Idaho should be funding education

“The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public free common schools.” — Idaho Constitution, Article IX, Section 1.

Unfortunately, the legislature has not provided this for us — which is why we end up needing levies to cover essentials like building maintenance or covering salaries for support staff.

It’s also clear that inequities persist in our education, due in large part to the fact that we have to rely on voters to pass bonds and levies. School District 91 passed its supplemental levy in March; School District 93 didn’t pass its supplemental levy or plant facilities levy. Now, School District 93 has to go back to voters and attempt to get their levies passed or risk being unable to meet the needs of students.

Bonds are another issue that leads to a lack of uniformity in our state education. School District 91 has been unable to pass a bond that would improve facilities — something much needed for the health and safety of students. Unfortunately, meeting the threshold for these needed funds requires an almost insurmountable majority that means a no vote counts for more than a yes vote.

Relying on property taxes to fund education doesn’t really do the job, and it certainly doesn’t meet the requirement in our state Constitution to provide equitable education throughout the state. Especially with a Legislature that continues to cut education funding and deny federal grants to provide education to our students.

Rather than hoping that voters will pass needed levies and build schools with bonds, we should be funding education with dollars allocated from the Legislature. Idaho has the resources. In fact, we have a massive surplus. We have an internet sales tax fund that could be diverted. There are billions each year we’re missing out on because of sales tax exemptions.

The number one priority Idahoans cite is education. After that, in 2021, Idahoans are interested in jobs and the economy, health care, coronavirus response and housing. While some of the other items on the list change in prominence and interest, education has been at the top of the list for years.

Tax cuts don’t even make the top five. Idahoans value education. We know it’s an investment in our future. Unfortunately, it’s been many years since our legislators agreed. So, we still need to pass these levies. Until we hold our “representatives” accountable and elect people who will put our money where our values are, we will be stuck in this cycle of levies and bonds.

Thomas Jefferson pushed for education for all people, convinced that it was the only way to preserve a democracy and produce an engaged citizenry.

My question is this: Why don’t our so-called leaders want an educated and engaged citizenry?

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, writer and speaker. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville Democratic County Central Committee.