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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of May 14 - 20, 2003


Schools can’t
win for losing

Idaho public schools are trapped in a dilemma that provides a classic case study of what’s known as a Catch-22, "the circumstance or rule that denies a solution."

Showing every classic symptom of a neurotic hostility toward education, the Republican-controlled Idaho Legislature spent some of its record and chaotic 118-day session concocting more mischievous legislation to make education the state’s most thoroughly politically abused public institution.

For starters and for at least the fifth legislative session, the Legislature’s anti-schools bloc refused to approve a state constitutional change allowing a 60 percent simple majority vote to approve school bonds instead of 66 percent.

Schools have been begging for this change since at least 1992 to make it easier to raise funds locally that the Legislature—surprise—won’t appropriate. (This is the political equivalent of the Catch-22 conservative doctrine in some religious circles of opposing abortions then also opposing public funding of contraceptives to reduce pregnancies.)

To add to education’s suffocating Catch-22 stranglehold, lawmakers resorted to dirty tricks—they wrote special-interest legislation prohibiting school districts as a group from suing the state, thus trying to remove themselves from a court order to appropriate tens of millions of dollars for school facilities.

Now taxpayers know what Idaho’s public schools face on top of the usual operating problems: a Republican Legislature that (a) shortchanges education on funding, (b) then prevents school districts from meeting needs by opposing a more reasonable simple majority vote on bond issues and (c) wants to tie education’s hands from collecting when it sues and wins a court order for adequate state funding.

There’s more that should anger parents as well as infuriate Idaho’s business community, which expects more grown up behavior than it’s getting from state lawmakers in this growing state.

Because legislators didn’t complete their work in the usual 100 days, and remained in session 18 more working days to argue, dawdle, hem and haw, cut and fill, posture and prattle, taxpayers shelled out another $27,000 for each additional day in legislative costs—about $486,000. The likelihood is that the Legislature will be called back into session this summer to deal with more budget problems.

How many textbooks, leaky classroom roofs or teachers’ salaries could that pay for?

How sad that education, the source of knowledge, is so shortchanged while the Legislature, the source of such stunted thinking, is over-funded.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.