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Advisory vote on "funding private schools" won't happen

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Today, the Idaho House shot down a proposal to place a misleading and controversial advisory question on the 2024 general election ballot.

The question was pretty simplistic – and an incomplete picture to paint for voters about education choice options.

Most of the Idaho legislative session has featured debates about Education Savings Accounts.

An ESA allows parents to use a portion of state funding on a variety of education services. Yes, it can include private school tuition, but it can also include tutoring, special needs services, curriculum, mental health treatment and much more - so long as it is for an educational purpose.

So why not a ballot measure about tutoring, or special needs services, curriculum or mental health treatment? Maybe there should be a question about funding students, instead of funding a system?

Most of the proposals have suggested creating a separate budget item to fund an ESA. And, if approved, the per-student funding in public schools would likely increase, as proposals have included 20% of a student’s funds being put into the local school district – even if students don’t go there.

Should we ask whether voters want to increase the per-student funding – without any context?

The way forward in the final days of the legislative session in Idaho is the limited expansion of the state's empowering parents program, via SB 1161.

Legislators could also opt for an interim legislative study on existing ESA programs across the country. This could be done by an unbiased source – perhaps the state Controller or Legislative Audit Division – and could be available by the time the next session begins. Lawmakers could make their request specific – getting much-needed answers to questions that could determine a way forward for education choice in Idaho.

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