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Proposition 1: More Money for Education is not Solution

  • Proposition 1: More Money for Education is not Solution

  • 7 November 2006 by 0 Comments

Proposition 1: More Money for Education is not Solution
By Richard Larsen
Published Online – Idaho State Journal Website 11/7/06

Some prefatory comments should be made before outlining the problems with Proposition 1.

I’ve lived nearly my whole life in Idaho and am a product of Idaho’s public schools and Idaho State University. In all my years living here, I’ve never met anyone who is anti-education. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t believe our children deserve the best public education that money can buy. However, I have met a great number of people who don’t believe the solution to a problem is to simply throw more money at it with no accountability as to how it’s spent.

That said, there are some serious problems with Proposition 1 on our general election ballot next week. The proposition calls for an increase in education funding equivalent to 1 cent of state sales tax, or about $220 million. It doesn’t authorize or mandate to the legislature that they are to raise the sales tax to meet that benchmark increase, nor does it specify any other source of taxation for those funds. Such a Machiavellian approach (whatever means necessary to achieving the funding goal) is irresponsible and ludicrous. The problem in raising the funds could be worse for the state than the proposed solution is for education.

Many legislators feel that this one objection alone is enough to prevent passage of Proposition 1, as it is unconstitutional.

Secondarily, there are no controls suggested as to how the funds are to be used to improve our public education system. Absent this specificity, the measure is nothing more than a shotgun approach to an issue that requires much greater finesse and precision. Surely the IEA has ideas on how to spend the funds, but that doesn’t assure that they will be used in a way to improve student performance. The IEA is a union with a specific clientele, and that clientele does not by definition include our children.

There is also no causal relationship, or correlation between spending for education and student performance. As recently as 1995, the Legislature increased school spending by over $100 million. The result was a massive increase in spending for teachers and staff, but almost no increase in student performance.

To further illustrate this point, per pupil spending in Idaho has increased by seven times in the last four decades, with little or no appreciable improvement in student performance. Utah’s schools outperform Idaho’s schools at 75 percent of the cost of Idaho’s schools. Idaho’s charter schools produce a quality education at a cost of about 80 percent of our traditional public schools.

Thirdly, the proposition covers only K-12, and leaves Idaho’s higher education facilities out of the equation altogether. Granted, higher education is funded differently and is financed as a totally separate entity at the state level, yet if we’re addressing quality of education in Idaho comprehensively, the universities must be included. Our universities are a crucial link in the education chain that demands participation in any education funding proposals. Failure to include higher education underscores the fact that this proposition is not about the quality of education in Idaho, but rather is all about the IEA and their agenda.

The absence of support for this proposition by two key state education organizations is telling. The Idaho School Superintendents Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators do not endorse Proposition 1.

Contrary to what the education establishment, especially the IEA, would say, a “no” vote on Proposition 1 next week is not equivalent to being anti-education. It rather would be a vote against a blanket referendum for an increase of nearly 20% for public education with no specificity as to how it’s funded, how it’s spent, or how higher education is affected. Further, a “no” vote on Proposition 1 would be a vote for increased fiscal accountability for Idaho’s educational system.

Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at rlarsenen@cableone.net.

About the

More than anything, I want my readers to think. We're told what to think by the education establishment, which is then parroted by politicians from the left, and then reinforced by the mainstream media. Steeped in classical liberalism, my ideological roots are based in the Constitution and our founding documents. Armed with facts, data, and correct principles, today's conservatives can see through the liberal haze and bring clarity to any political discussion.

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