- by Nishant Mohan
Idaho Public Radio
State Capitol Bureau
During “Education Week” at the Idaho State Capitol, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra requested a 7.5% increase in the public education budget, bringing the total request to $1,577,904,100. Idaho’s eight colleges and universities presented their budget proposals to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and updated the legislature’s education committees on their activities.
But also during “Education Week” a rally for school choice was held on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol.
(School Choice rally on January 27th. Photo by Nishant Mohan)
Parents, their children, educators, and lawmakers showed up for the rally sporting matching yellow scarves and signs, some of which read, “I trust parents.” The rally was in support of private schools as well as public charters and traditional public schools.
Marvin Winter, who attended the private school Grace Lutheran and whose granddaughter attends American Heritage Charter School, said he supports school choice because of the variety of focuses it allows schools to have.
“I believe it’s a good idea to have a choice for different schools, not that public education is bad or good,” Winter said.
Jenny Ball, parent of three children in the Blackfoot Charter, said she likes the fewer but longer class periods and the smaller class size.
But Ball said she was also in support of something many others at the rally were there to support – a “money follows the student” model to support private schools. This could come in the form of a voucher system, a tax credit or specialized scholarships and the degree of state involvement on standards varies depending on who you ask.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said she supports this model and would like to see legislation on the table.
“I support the parents’ right to choose,” Ybarra said. “It’s not about what’s best for adults, it’s about what’s best for children.”
Rep McCrostie, a traditional public school teacher, said he supports the concept of charter schools but questions the background of some of the charter schools in Idaho. He said he would definitely oppose a voucher system.
“If you have a private school with a religious structure behind it, if we’re taking public tax dollars and putting them in those kinds of settings, I think that’s dangerous and I think it treads upon separation of church and state.”
Ybarra said she is not concerned that funding for education will end up in the wrong place.
“As the Superintendent of Public Instruction, it’s important that I know exactly where the money is going – that it goes directly to our students in Idaho,” she said.
“I think Idaho has a good system that allows for parents to have choices,” District 1 State Sen. Shawn Keough said. “We are permissive and supportive of home schooling, we have a state-sponsored charter school program, we have private schools, and we have public schools.”
Keough said Idaho has fewer requirements on home schooling than nearby states like Washington and that she supports those freedoms because of the robust home schooling population they have created.
“To me it comes down to whether or not that takes away funding for our public schools,” Keough said. “If the funding for that, whether it’s vouchers or tax credit, would jeopardize funding for the public K-12 system, then I would not be supportive.
“Our constitution requires us to have a public K-12 school system and provide an opportunity for every child to get an education in Idaho and that is our first and foremost responsibility as a legislature,” Keough said.
Posted January 31, 2016, re-edited February 1, 2016