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Taxpayer money for religious schools? New proposal could allow it in Idaho

A photo inside the Idaho capitol building looking up at the dome with the Idaho state flag hanging in the foreground.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
The Idaho state flag hanging in the Capitol rotunda.

Some Idaho lawmakers are revamping their campaign to give taxpayer dollars to private, religious schools.

It’s the second year in a row a group of legislators wants to cut this section of the state constitution. They say it discriminates against religious schools.

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision finds states that give taxpayer money to non-religious private schools must also make that cash available to their religious counterparts.

Idaho doesn’t currently give public funds to any private school. But Rep. Elaine Price (R-Coeur d’Alene) said she wants to change that – and the constitution is getting in the way.

“It prevents us from passing legislation to do just that in the future, so if we remove this then that does not come into play,” Price said.

Legislation allowing parents to use public dollars to pay for private school tuition is expected to resurface later this session.

During the proposed amendment’s introductory hearing Thursday, Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) said funneling taxpayer money to religious institutions could bear a significant cost, given just how many religious denominations and sects exist.

“You start opening up this to equal allocation of funds and it makes me very, very uncomfortable,” Gannon said.

Two-thirds of the House and Senate have to approve a constitutional amendment. If passed at the Idaho Capitol, it would then need a simple majority vote by the public this November to take effect.

Copyright 2024 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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