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Shady news stories aside, Idaho’s supermajority for bond elections should remain in place

Shady news stories aside, Idaho’s supermajority for bond elections should remain in place

Wayne Hoffman
December 19, 2023

We’ve all been witness to some really questionable “journalism” in Idaho of late, but the recent article by the Idaho Statesman/ProPublica is a whole other level when it comes to media bias. The article passes itself off as investigative reporting, but it’s not. It’s essentially a long editorial pandering for more money for Education, Inc. 

I could go into the long list of reasons why no one should seriously consider the story as authentic journalism, starting with altered photos that violate the basic ethical standards and continuing with the methodology — a self-selecting survey of school district officials regarding the structural conditions at their schools — designed to reach a particular conclusion. One could survey all the Walgreens managers in Idaho asking them about their building deficiencies and get the same result. 

Real journalism — whether involving a network of drug stores or a system of government-run schools — would involve a hunt for emails, memos, and correspondence about school facilities, an examination of school board meeting minutes, and a look through school expenditures. The Idaho Statesman/ProPublica offered none of that.  

Their story is deliberately designed material to be quoted in legislative hearing rooms and in debate on the House or Senate floor. It’s editorializing, not journalism. The point of the exercise is to make enough noise to convince lawmakers that they’ve “gotta do something” to help the local school districts with their efforts to raise taxes and, more specifically, to do away with the supermajority vote threshold necessary to pass a bond in Idaho. That is, specifically, the solution the news outlets argue for.  

Taxation is theft. There really is no other way to say it. If a gunman came to your house and demanded your money, that would be a crime, even if he intended to hand that money to your local school district to “help” the students. You earned the money. He stole it. 

It would be unseemly for your local politicians to go to your house with a gun, so governments pass laws to do what the criminal could not. They do this by passing laws requiring you to hand over your earnings. If you fail to do so, a guy with a gun will show up at your house, and he’ll do so under the color of law. 

To the degree that some level of government is necessary to carry out certain responsibilities associated with protecting your liberties, we agree to taxation. But consider:

  • Idaho taxpayers pay five times the rate of income taxes than New Deal Democrats dreamed up for the citizenry when the income tax was first passed in the 1930s.
  • Idaho shoppers pay twice the sales tax than was envisioned by leftists in the state Legislature when the sales tax was first conceived in the 1960s. 
  • School districts have basically become mini-electioneering headquarters, spending much of their time, energy, and your money trying to convince you to raise your own property taxes. 

So now comes leftist Republicans like Idaho Falls Sen. Dave Lent, using media-contrived stories that paint the picture they would like you to see so that you’re convinced to get rid of Idaho’s protection against even more confiscatory property taxes. And now certain new actors have entered, arguing that such a scenario is worth discussing. 

To be sure, getting rid of the supermajority should not be entertained in the slightest way. The reason the supermajority threshold is in place is to protect taxpayers. If anything, the threshold for raising taxes should be higher, especially given that earlier this year, the West Ada School District tried to evade the supermajority for capital projects by using a levy vote instead. You can bet they’ll try again. 

And, of course, school districts have other means to sock it to property taxpayers, including the so-called emergency levy and the ability to make a property tax levy permanent once it has been passed by voters for seven years running. 

But if we’re forced into a discussion about making it easier for school bonds to pass, how about adding these points as well:

  • If a school district puts a bond or levy on the ballot, passage would be null and void if the district uses taxpayer resources to promote the measure’s passage. This was the outcome in Idaho Falls recently, but a lot of county prosecutors have simply refused to hold their local school districts accountable for the misuse of taxpayer funds to promote an election outcome. 
  • No school can put a bond or levy on the ballot as long as the majority of students are failing their standardized tests. Roughly half of Idaho’s public school students graduate high school without the skills needed in reading, writing, math, history, and science. 
  • No school district that expends public money on smutty library books or on gay sexuality alliance clubs can pursue a hike in property taxes. 

Shady “news” articles about the condition of Idaho’s schools don’t change the fact that Idaho taxpayers benefit from the two-thirds majority vote for bond elections. It’s not a point worth discussing; it deserves protecting. 

Keeping districts from spending our money to force a specific outcome, demanding that districts demonstrate performance worth funding, and making sure that money isn’t being spent on indoctrination is a discussion worth having. 

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