A BALLOT INITIATIVE CAMPAIGN

By Reclaim Idaho

 
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Reclaim Idaho has filed an initiative to invest $170 million in K-12 education. During the past 20 years, Idaho politicians have underfunded K-12 education year after year while continuing to give away tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. It’s time to reverse this trend and start investing in our kids again.

Our initiative would do just that: It would restore Idaho’s corporate tax rate to 8% and increase the marginal tax rate on those making over $250,000 per year, and it would dedicate all new revenue to meeting the most urgent needs of our students.

We’ve all seen the costs of Idaho’s failure to invest in education: outdated and torn-up textbooks; overcrowded classrooms; underfunded special education; unfunded kindergarten; cuts to career-technical training; poverty wages for support staff; qualified teachers leaving the state in droves because Idaho will not pay competitive salaries. 

It’s time to invest in Idaho, and to give voters a chance to declare that they’d rather invest in our kids than give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. 

This won’t be easy. It will take the commitment of teachers, parents, students, and education supporters in every town and region. It will take a movement bigger than any we’ve yet seen. 

But make no mistake, we can win. And with enough support, we will win.

 

Upcoming Tour!

 

Just like we did with Medicaid Expansion, Reclaim Idaho is hitting the road on September 16th for a series of organizing meetings in every part of the state. Want to ensure we stop in your town? Email reclaimidahocoordinator@gmail.com and let us know where we should stop.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS about the “Invest in Idaho” initiative


Will this initiative increase my taxes?

Very unlikely. The “Invest in Idaho” initiative increases taxes only on corporations and personal income over $250,000 per year for an individual and $500,000 per year for a married couple. Nineteen out of Twenty Idahoans will see zero new taxes.


How many Idahoans will be impacted by the tax change?

Only 5% of Idahoans—those at the very top of the income-ladder—will be impacted. 


Will my property taxes go down? Will we still need property-tax levies?

The “Invest in Idaho” initiative will increase the amount of K-12 funding that comes from the state of Idaho, and thereby lessen the need for property tax levies at the local level. This means that it’s possible that property taxes will go down in some districts and that some districts may decide not to run supplemental levies.  

However, there is no guarantee. Districts may decide to continue to raise local levy dollars in order to supplement new state dollars. 


Will new funds be wasted on bureaucracy and administrative costs? 

No. The initiative states: “Moneys from the fund shall not be used to pay superintendents’, principals’ or other administrators’ salaries or other compensation.”


Why increase taxes only on corporations and the wealthy? Why not share the burden equally by raising Idaho sales tax, which is paid by every Idahoan?

A sales-tax increase would put an unfair burden on middle-class and low-income Idahoans, who currently pay a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy. Middle-class and low-income Idahoans pay over 8% of their total income in taxes. By comparison, Idaho’s highest earners pay 7.2% of their income in taxes.


Will this initiative raise taxes on small business owners?

No. The “Invest in Idaho” initiative levies a modest tax increase on income over $250,000 per year for individuals and $500,000 per year for married couples. In Idaho, the median income for individuals self-employed at their own incorporated businesses is $41,775.


How much will this initiative increase investment in Idaho K-12 education? How much will funding be increased per student? How will new funds be distributed?

The “Invest in Idaho” initiative” raises approximately $170-200 million per year in new investments. This adds up to an increase of about $600 per student annually. The initiative establishes a new fund called the Quality Education Fund, which will be distributed to districts in accordance with the number of students attending school in a district. 


If the Legislature changes the funding formula, will these new funds be impacted?

No. The Quality Education Fund will be distributed in accordance with its own formula, which is based on the number of students attending school in a district.


Why is the distribution based on average attendance vs. enrollment?

Existing funds that are dedicated to K-12 education, such as the Building Fund Account, use an attendance-based formula to distribute dedicated fund. For the sake of consistency, our initiative uses the same formula. 


Will this initiative provide additional funding to charter schools as well?

Yes. New funds will be distributed to Idaho’s school districts and to Idaho’s public charter schools. 


What about Governor Little's plans to revamp Idaho education? Does this initiative conflict with Governor’s education agenda?

Governor Little has made praiseworthy commitments to K-12 education funding, and his administration has advocated for much-needed investments in early literacy and teacher salaries. However, the Governor’s agenda falls far short of what is needed. Career-Technical Education, kindergarten, and special education all remain woefully underfunded. In spite of modest investments, we continue to lose many of our best teachers because teacher salaries—especially salaries for our most experienced, veteran teachers—are not competitive with those offered by neighboring states.


I heard that Idaho has been investing in education for years, but has not seen any change in student outcomes. Why throw more money at the problem?

The truth is that our legislature has failed to invest adequately in education for several decades. A recent report by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy found that Idaho’s commitment to K-12 education, measured as a percentage of total income, has declined drastically. If Idaho were currently investing at the same rate as in 1980, we’d be investing $2,469 more per student than we are today. 

We’ve all seen the costs of Idaho’s failure to invest in education: outdated and torn-up textbooks; overcrowded classrooms; underfunded special education; unfunded kindergarten; cuts to career-technical training; poverty wages for support staff; and qualified teachers leaving the state in droves because Idaho will not pay competitive salaries. Money won’t solve every problem, but we won’t build the education system our kids deserve unless we invest in our schools.


Is this initiative bad for the Idaho economy?

Absolutely not. For the strength of our economy, there is nothing more important than a skilled, well-trained workforce. Idaho’s 2017 Workforce Development Task Force concluded that: “If Idaho does not act now there is a real risk of the dual problem of both a) becoming a talent exporter and b) losing businesses to those states that have created the required workforce.” 


Do Idaho’s education organizations and established stakeholders support this initiative?

The “Invest in Idaho” campaign is a citizens’ initiative and is supported by ordinary parents, teachers, and educators all across the state. The campaign is not currently seeking endorsements from any established groups.


WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO CAMPAIGN FOR INVESTMENT IN K-12 EDUCATION? 

Reclaim Idaho organizes around consensus issues—issues that bring Idahoans together regardless of party or political ideology. In poll after poll, Idahoans say that K-12 education is the most important issue facing Idaho. And the vast majority of Idahoans, regardless of party, say they want investment in K-12 education to be increased.


How much flexibility do districts have in deciding how to use the money?

The “Invest in Idaho” initiative establishes a Quality Education Fund and permits districts to use the fund only for the following specified uses:

  • Reduction of class sizes and prevention class size increases

  • Attraction and retention of highly qualified teachers and support staff (this includes competitive salaries as well as continuing education opportunities and support for new educators)

  • Current and adequate classroom materials, such as textbooks and supplies for students

  • Career Technical Education

  • Full-day Kindergarten

  • Art, music and drama programs

  • Special education services.


I heard that Idaho would need to invest at least $500 million more per year to return to the rate of investment our state enjoyed in the 1990s. The “Invest in Idaho” initiative is not enough.

It’s true. This initiative will not repair all of the damage done by 20 years of cuts to education. Nonetheless, the “Invest in Idaho” initiative is a bold step forward. It is a chance for Idahoans to make a declaration of priorities—that we’d rather invest in our kids’ future than give another tax break to out-of-state corporations and the wealthy. 

In every Idaho district, this initiative will help provide students with the tools they need to be successful and competitive in the workforce. In our state’s most struggling districts, this initiative will be lifeline—it will determine whether vital programs in CTE and other fields are eliminated and whether qualified teachers stay in the classroom.


Why not wait and let the Legislature deal with it?

Idaho politicians have underfunded K-12 education year after year while continuing to give away tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy. Now is the time to let Idaho voters take matters into their own hands.


Does this initiative reverse the damage done in 2006, when then-Governor Risch repealed the M&O tax levy and replaced it with a sales-tax increase?

Yes, this initiative reverses some of the damage done in 2006. It was the 2006 law that moved Idaho towards our extremely unequal system of school finance. Under our current system, districts rely heavily on local property taxes--rather than the state of Idaho--for their funding. The result is that property-rich districts can pass large levies and fund their schools adequately, but property-poor districts are not able to raise enough local dollars to meet basic needs. The "Invest in Idaho" initiative pushes in the opposite direction by investing $170 million in a new Quality Education Fund--a fund that will be distributed on a per-student basis to all districts, without regard to whether a district is rich in property values.

However, this initiative does not reverse all of the damage done in 2006. If an initiative were to entirely repeal the the 2006 law, it would need to establish a statewide property tax levy. Such an initiative would likely fail, considering that Idaho property taxes are currently very burdensome for many homeowners.


Why doesn't the "Invest in Idaho" initiative include Pre-Kindergarten?

We at Reclaim Idaho gave serious consideration to including Pre-K in our 2020 ballot initiative. However, after carefully considering our options, we concluded that establishing statewide Pre-K would require filing a separate initiative. Strategically, we believe it's best to focus on one initiative at a time. So for now, we're directing all of our energy towards addressing the K-12 education crisis. We do believe that Pre-K is urgently needed in Idaho, and we are hopeful that we'll have opportunities to fight for it in the future.