No Tax Cut Left Behind
The national No Child Left Behind
education initiative should be renamed "No Tax Cut Left Behind."
States are suddenly waking up to the
initiative’s costs and requirements. Connecticut, Utah, and Alaska are seriously
considering opting out of the program and giving up federal funds for education.
New Hampshire is looking for ways to get around some of the acts more onerous
Can Idaho be far behind?
Idaho will get $89 million this year to
meet the federal provisions requiring that every child be at grade levels in
math and reading within 10 years. However, lawmakers fear that the federal
payments will fall short of what will be needed to pay for the program.
Their fears are well placed.
If a school fails to show annual
improvement for two consecutive years, it will be designated as a School in Need
of Improvement. The school must develop a two-year plan to improve scores.
If after five years schools don’t achieve
100 percent compliance, the law calls for one of the following: creation of a
public charter school, replacement of staff, turning the school over to a
private management company, takeover by the state or fundamental changes in
None of those remedies will be cheap. Any
funding shortages will fall on top of new holes in Idaho’s education funding.
The holes are gaping.
Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s education
budget lacks $1.6 million in property tax relief reimbursement that is the
state’s responsibility. It lacks $1.8 million for school busing—a cost that has
already fallen on school districts. It lacks $3.7 million for salary
reimbursements—even though districts have already incorporated a salary schedule
that includes the money. It lacks $1 million the state needs to cover a gap
between actual starting teachers pay and what the state mandates.
Kempthorne’s budget also ends a plan to
tutor students who fail the state’s graduation tests that will become mandatory
in 2006. It reduces funding for a reading initiative and eliminates teacher
training on the mandatory tests for disabled students.
The governor says he is relying on school
districts to "innovate" to cover the gaps. Districts who cannot will be forced
to go to property taxpayers and ask for school budget overrides.
The giddiness that surrounded the past
four years of state and federal tax cuts is gone. No one in the corridors of
power is smiling. No one is trumpeting the "it’s your money" mantra of the new
It’s still our money alright—tax money.
The tax cuts were wishful thinking. It’s
becoming clear that taxpayers may end up with only one change in tax bills.
We’ll be sending the checks to a local address.