Boise schools trustee Rory Jones told the Idaho Statesman late last year that the district would be "aggressive" in promoting a $14 million levy election slated for March 13.
In the last few days, the Boise School District has sent out school levy literature home with students in their report cards. The literature, yellow tri-fold pamphlets, discuss the district's "need" for levy passage and talks about how Boise’s schools would be harmed if voters don’t approve the measure.
Also included with the pamphlet is an absentee ballot request form.
Jones told IdahoReporter.com he believes it’s the school district’s job to inform parents of the ramifications of the levy’s possible failure. “Everything in that document is accurate,” Jones said. “We always publish information about the district before levies.”
Jones says this likely isn’t the first time the fact sheets have been sent home with report cards. However, it is the first instance he remembers absentee ballot request forms being sent home.
Though some parents have called IdahoReporter.com about the fairness of the literature, Jones says the information sheets are unbiased. “I wouldn’t agree they are pro-levy,” he said.
Jones says he wouldn’t allow a group of parents opposing the levy to distribute their own facts sheets through student report cards because he believes that would open the floodgates for political material being sent home.
Austin Hill, a radio show host for 580 KIDO AM in Boise, has been a vocal critic of the levy and told the Boise Weekly that district officials aren’t calling the measure a tax hike, which he believes it is.
In the interview with the paper, Hill accused district officials of spreading “propaganda” about the levy and using its resources to promote the levy. "What I find unfair in the midst of this is that school district employees and friends of the district can get into venues and spread their message with no outside voices at all," said Hill. "They have an impact that the average person cannot."
The district isn’t the only government entity supporting the levy. On Tuesday, the Boise City Council voted 6-0 to approve a nonbinding resolution supporting passage of the levy.
Former state Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, who has kids in the Boise School District and received the pamphlet and ballot request form with his kids’ report cards, said the practice is perfectly acceptable. “They didn’t necessarily instruct anyone to vote for it,” Durst told IdahoReporter.com, adding that the district sent ballot request to all parents, not solely those who’ve expressed support for the levy.
Asked if he thinks the pamphlet offers a fair assessment of the levy’s pros and cons, Durst said the document might slightly favor levy passage. “I think it was written from the school district’s perspective,” Durst explained. “It’s impossible to eliminate all the impartiality of an issue.”
See pictures of the pamphlet below: