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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — February 6, 2004


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 requirements.

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 governance.

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 millenium.

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.



City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

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.