A majority of Idahoans from both political parties value education. We want businesses to flourish and our kids to thrive. Gov. Little is a strong supporter of education, but he’s being hamstrung by far-right legislators, and Idaho remains dead-last in per-capita education spending. Sadly, many of our best teachers are leaving the profession or leaving to work in nearby states for better pay.

Jackie Stephens

Jackie Stephens

Grassroots volunteers are working on a citizen’s initiative called the Quality Education Act. We need to gather 65,000 signatures by May to get the initiative on the ballot in 2022 and allow citizens to vote on it.

The Quality Education Act would increase education spending by over $300 million a year. The money will be used to invest in educational programs and increase pay for teachers and support staff. None of it will go to administrative costs. Another objective is to fund technical programs in schools to allow kids to leave high school with the ability to get good jobs in agriculture, welding, and other career and technical fields.

The Quality Education Act would be paid for by restoring our corporate tax rate to its historic rate of 8%. No individuals would see a tax increase unless they make $250,000 a year per individual or $500,000 per couple, and then the increase would be a modest increase in income above those amounts.

There is currently a right-wing conspiracy theory that educational spending is being used to indoctrinate children to communism and to hate America. Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachen spent a huge chunk of money searching for evidence. Nothing came of it except for wasted tax dollars, fines and legal fees.

Also, our hard-right legislators turned down a federal preschool development grant, designed to strengthen children’s language and literacy skills from birth to age 5. These were your federal tax dollars that they refused to accept. It is absurd that they are telling us we can’t educate our children in language and literacy because they purport that teachers are surreptitiously indoctrinating them. Hogwash. You know our teachers. They are our neighbors, family, friends and, most importantly, they are imparting knowledge to our kids that they need to be a success in this complicated world. Teachers rarely get rich. They go into the field to make a difference in the lives of kids. Let’s value our teachers and pay them wages commensurate with their contributions.

The Legislature tried to take away our right to citizen initiatives. They don’t want our direct input. But they failed in court and our right is preserved. If you value education, will you sign the petition? And if you have time, will you volunteer to help us gather signatures? It’s enjoyable because most Idahoans are happy to sign and they thank you for your efforts. If you’d like to find out how to sign or to volunteer to help us, email me at jackieidahofalls@gmail.com.

Then, when our initiative is on the ballot in 2022, vote yes. Do it for our kids and for Idaho.

Jackie Stephens is a precinct captain serving on the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.

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