[Vision2020] school funding

Donovan Arnold donovanjarnold2005 at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 20 15:20:22 PDT 2009

"On a different note:  do folks think it is time to re-visit how we fund our public schools?  Below is Marty Trillhaase’s column from a couple of days ago."
--Judy Brown
I always thought money worked well? What did you have in mind? Maybe a barter system instead?

--- On Fri, 3/20/09, JLBrown <jlbrown at turbonet.com> wrote:

From: JLBrown <jlbrown at turbonet.com>
Subject: [Vision2020] school funding
To: vision2020 at moscow.com
Date: Friday, March 20, 2009, 2:06 PM

On a different note:  do folks think it is time to re-visit how we fund our public schools?  Below is Marty Trillhaase’s column from a couple of days ago.
Judy Brown

Idaho Falls Post Register           Wednesday March 18, 2009 

The great mistake of 2006
By Marty Trillhaase

If then-Gov. Jim Risch hadn't pushed his 2006 tax shift package in a rushed, one-day special legislative session, we would have recognized more of its flaws.
Cutting schools from property tax support saved $260 million. Raising the sales tax from a nickel to 6 cents on the dollar replaced $210 million. That equals $50 million in tax cuts, which went to wealthy homeowners and corporations. Everybody else - especially low-income families who rent their homes - paid more.
Only a deepening recession could reveal the Risch tax shift's true damage to the schools.
Gov. C.L. "Butch' Otter said the school budget must be slashed about $109 million next year. Just having that debate tells you something about Risch's tax shift:
It destabilized school funding. Before Risch took office, schools relied on a maintenance and operation levy for a quarter of their money; the state general fund provided the rest. During its past decade, the amount of dollars this levy produced for schools increased 77 percent to $293.5 million. Had Risch left well enough alone, the state Tax Commission estimates the levy would have generated at least $166 million more this year. Instead, schools are stuck with the sales tax, down 8.8 percent, and the income taxes, down 14.5 percent.
The $114 million school stabilization account couldn't meet the challenge of a deep and prolonged slowdown. Just keeping the schools afloat this year would have all but depleted it, had the Obama federal stimulus package not provided another $166 million.
Otter's right. Schools will eventually run out of money when the stimulus and the reserve account are gone. Call that a structural deficit - schools cost more than we're paying. The Risch tax plan never replaced the $50 million yanked from school support. It also removed property tax dollars dedicated exclusively to schools. Now education has to compete with every other state agency for a slice of a general fund that is shrinking by 12 percent.
Nearly three-quarters of Idaho voters approved Risch's plan in a 2006 advisory vote. But the question was loaded. Nowhere in it did the ballot measure note school funding had been cut $50 million and otherwise destabilized. In fact, the measure promoted the tax shift as a way to protect funding for public schools.
Plummeting home values and a shaky economy mean money will be too short to drop the sales tax back to 5 percent even with a restored maintenance and operation levy. But reviving the M&O levy might relieve enough pressure on the state budget to accelerate lifting the unconscionably regressive sales tax on food.
Make this the defining question of next year's campaign: Do we continue chopping away at our schools or is it time to correct this mistake?
Marty Trillhaase
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