Idahoans paid approximately $22,694 for 127 public school employees to testify before the Senate Education Committee the week of February 7, 2011. This is more than twice what it cost the taxpayer for public school employees to testify before the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee on January 21.
Public school employees came from all over Idaho to testify before the Senate Education Committee about the Students Come First education reform plan. Of the hundreds who signed up to testify the week of February 7, 127 were identifiable as public school employees through Idaho Freedom Foundation’s OurIdaho.com database. 107 of those were teachers who presumably needed substitutes at an average cost of $75/per day for a total cost of $8025. My calculations presumed the 32 traveling from farther away than Twin Falls stayed overnight so they could be in line to sign up to testify at 7 am. I allowed them a $20/per day food per diem totaling $640. A hotel room in downtown Boise averages about $100 for a total cost of $3200. I guessed the eight people from the Panhandle and the Palouse flew from Spokane for a total of $2264. The others presumably drove from their respective hometowns. Their trips would have been reimbursable at the standard IRS rate of $.51/mile for a total of $8565.
$22,694 is a lowball estimate for the actual cost to taxpayers for public employees to lobby the legislature to spend more public money. It’s impossible to know actual costs because public school employees likely were present at the hearings but didn’t sign up to testify, and the Idaho Education Association is not required to disclose what it spent reimbursing districts for member association leave and travel expenses. Perhaps the reason legislators are slow to enact much-needed education reform is because they hear mostly from people who can afford to take time off to attend hearings.
(Thank you Idaho Freedom Foundation intern Eric Wilson for research help.)
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