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Where is the Education Choice Legislation? 

Where is the Education Choice Legislation? 

Ronald M. Nate, Ph.D.
February 22, 2024

You’re the customer and this is your experience: poor results, higher costs, hidden agendas, and the product is nothing close to what you wanted.  

What do you do?  Go somewhere else, right?  

Wrong again, because we aren’t talking about burgers or blenders, we are talking about public education.   

Too often we’re told how education is improving and we just need to “fully fund” it and be patient to see improved results.  Sadly, this never has and never will happen. Our January report on school choice revealed the following:

It's time for a reality check [on performance]. Take a look at two telling statistics in Idaho. First, reading and math proficiency for Idaho 8th graders on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) were just 32% and 28%, in 2003. Nineteen years later, those same tests yielded just 32% and 32% proficiency — near zero progress. The raw numbers are startling. This dismal outcome reveals 15,983 third graders who cannot read at grade level, leaving only 7,521 who can. 

Second, let’s consider the record on spending. Could it be that schools need more resources? Since 2003, K-12 education spending in Idaho has increased from $986 million to over $3.2 billion in 2022. We have TRIPLED state spending on schools and education, yet we have seen student performance go nowhere. 

So, if money and patience are not the answer, then what is? 

Competition and choice in education is the only solution we’ve seen work in other states.  

And, the Idaho Freedom Foundation has been spearheading efforts to finally achieve what other states (West Virginia, Arizona, etc.) have done, true and robust school choice. We reported a few months ago how other states are expanding choice, while Idaho’s ranking in education freedom is dropping lower and lower. Why won’t Idaho give parents and children the choice to find better schools, better opportunities, and obtain better results?

The reluctance of the Legislature to act on choice is puzzling when you look at often-disappointing school performance, spending on the rise (doubling in the last 10 years), the woke agenda increasing (have you seen some of the books they use?), and parents’ estimation of their schools is very low. But, the reluctance of the Legislature is not puzzling when you look at the composition of how the legislature thinks (ranking mostly Democrat) and their fear of offending one of the biggest lobbies in Boise: the teachers union lobby. 

To be clear, it’s not necessarily the Legislature as a whole that is the problem. Many bills never see the light of day or get a vote because so-called legislative leaders try to protect their committees and legislative bodies from uncomfortable votes and less-than-stellar results. 

This year there is a paucity of education freedom legislation. Before the first week of the legislative session, Rep. Wendy Horman and Sen. Lori Den Hartog announced a bill to provide families with a $5,000 refundable education tax credit when they choose a non-public school option. It took nearly a month, but the bill was introduced on January 30.  It is much more modest than some other states have offered, but at least it’s something. Good news, right? Wrong. The bill is nowhere to be found on legislative agendas.  

It appears there is not enough support in the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. The question comes before the committee chair, Rep. David Cannon: Will the bill see a hearing and will Idahoans have a chance to testify for pushing the bill forward?  Unfortunately,  there is no other bill or policy on the table to provide education choice.  The prospects are not good.  

So, here is what Idaho parents get from their education dollar: poor results, higher costs, hidden agendas, and the product is nothing close to what they want.  

There is no school choice–unless, of course, they are willing to fork out private school tuition on top of the taxes they already pay for “free” public education.  That’s not freedom, that’s not competition, and that’s not fair. The legislature needs to admit public education’s failures, and stop scamming parents and taxpayers.  

Let the money follow the students to the best education alternatives. Pass the bill, already!

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