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Friday, June 11, 2004

Our View

Schools 3, Legislature 0

Even after rigging the rules to favor itself, the Idaho Legislature is coming up a loser when it lands in court as it pleads to avoid its sworn obligation to public schools.

The record for legislators is appalling: Idaho judges in the second, fourth and seventh judicial districts have ruled against them. The score is schools 3, Legislature 0.

Now, if the Idaho Supreme Court shows the same wisdom and rebukes the Legislature in an appeal action, the score will not only move up to 4-0, but also effectively end any hope that the Legislature will find a sympathetic ear inside Idaho’s court system.

Will the Legislature at long last get the message and do its constitutional duty of funding desperately needed school repairs? Or, will mean-spirited Republican leaders, who are stage managing this unseemly foot-dragging, waste more taxpayer funds and delay justice for Idaho’s schools and their children even further with some new ploy?

It’s been a decade since Fourth District Judge Debra Bail ordered lawmakers to pay for school repairs, especially in poor districts. Rather than comply, Republican legislators launched a series of cynical end runs.

In the meantime, Idaho students—the very foundation of the state’s future—have suffered through what passes for education in some parts of the state in grossly inferior, inadequate and sometimes dangerous, schoolhouses.

Who but someone totally contemptuous of the courts and of their sworn public duty could concoct the next move: Writing a law to ignore court orders and shift the funding responsibilities to school districts and, in the ultimate abdication of duty, requiring judges (not lawmakers) to raise taxes to force the repairs?

How clever—making schools and judges the villains.

The odor of unconstitutional mischief on this deceitful legislation is so pungent every judge asked to rule on it has found it indefensible.

Perhaps the public expects this sort of jerryrigging of the law for political purposes. But in defending this legislative tomfoolery, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden also has joined the state’s supposedly high-minded law offices to the hip of the Legislature’s shame.

The final insult to Idaho’s taxpayers—the beneficiaries of a previous misguided tax cut—will come when the Legislature finally gets around, years and years late, to paying for the school repairs at a far higher, inflated cost caused by their foot-dragging.

The legislative majority behind this exercise in political scheming is quick to claim it is better equipped to manage public funds with prudence and selfless fidelity.



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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.