Idaho Lawmakers Noncommittal On Education Money In Limbo Since Props 1, 2 3 Vote
Idaho voters' decision to strike down three education laws in November raised a question. What happens to the money that was meant to pay for things like classroom technology and hiring more math and science teachers?
The money in question is a net $22.9 million that schools have already budgeted. It is money set aside in the Students Come First laws, which were repealed by propositions 1, 2 and 3. Districts can't spend those dollars because the laws that told them how are off the books. If the legislature doesn’t give districts permission, the money goes into the education rainy day fund next summer.
“Which is not all bad,” Says Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, “because you know we can always replenish our savings accounts, particularly in public schools.”
The Republican isn't advocating letting the money go into savings, or anything else publicly. But Bedke says that idea seems attractive to some. The account known as the Public Education Stabilization Fund held $112 million in 2008. It’s at $48.9 million now.
Democrats want the money outlined in the Students Come First laws to go to schools right away to be spent how district leaders see fit. House Minority Leader John Rushe says he speaks for his caucus on that.
But almost every Republican legislator we’ve talked with says they haven’t decided what should be done. The exception is Maxine Bell. She co-chairs the committee that crafts the state budget.
“My goal is to make sure that the funding is put back in this year’s budget,” Bells says. “And we will take care of that as soon as we get back.”
But some lawmakers acknowledge talk at the capital of taking the money from Students Come First and spending it somewhere other than education. Tax relief seems most popular. Lawmakers will be back in session January 7th.