IEA HOTLINE Podcast

Idaho Legislature - Weeks 1-3

February 03, 2023 Mike Journee Season 1 Episode 7
Idaho Legislature - Weeks 1-3
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
More Info
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
Idaho Legislature - Weeks 1-3
Feb 03, 2023 Season 1 Episode 7
Mike Journee

In this episode of HOTLINE, we discuss the first three weeks of the Idaho Legislature’s 2023 session. There’s been quite a bit action around education at the Statehouse as those with a wide variety of perspectives about public education begin bringing their proposals forward. 

Our panel discusses:

Joining host Mike Journee for today’s conversation are:

  • IEA’s Political Director Chris Parri
  • IEA Executive Director Paul Stark
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of HOTLINE, we discuss the first three weeks of the Idaho Legislature’s 2023 session. There’s been quite a bit action around education at the Statehouse as those with a wide variety of perspectives about public education begin bringing their proposals forward. 

Our panel discusses:

Joining host Mike Journee for today’s conversation are:

  • IEA’s Political Director Chris Parri
  • IEA Executive Director Paul Stark
Micheal Journee:

Welcome to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast, a weekly discussion about what's happening at the legislature around public education, and the policy priorities of ies members. I EAA members or public school educators from all over the state. There Idaho's most important education experts, and they use their influence to fight for a free quality and equitable public education for every student in the state. I'm Mike journee, communications director at the IEA and I'll be your host for this episode of hotline.

Mike Journee:

Today we discuss the first three weeks of the Idaho legislature is 2023 session. Since our last episode, there's been quite a bit of action around education at the statehouse, as those with a wide variety of perspectives about public education, begin bringing their proposals forward. joining me for today's conversation, our ies political director, Chris Perry, and IEA Executive Director, Paul Stark. Well, Chris Paul, thanks for joining me today and having this conversation about the first couple of weeks of the legislature. And, you know, it's been a busy few weeks. But I really don't think there's been any huge surprises. So far, we've kind of seen what we thought we're going to see from certain corners of the legislature. We know that the governor's budget bills are going to be coming later in the year all the good news for educators. In the meantime, we've got some policy debates that are happening. We've seen some voucher legislation come forward from legislators that we thought were going to push off your bills. You know, one of the most surprising things, I think we really had a robust discussion this week around the need for the school, or for the state to get involved more in school building school facilities and the discussion around that. So that's going to be something that we will want to keep an eye on. But before we get into that, Chris, you and I have had a couple of conversations this week about about the interesting dynamics around the different factions that seem to be aligning the session around education, and the folks that that want to influence education policies. And I just wanted you to talk a little bit about that before we kind of get going into the nitty gritty of the of the bills that have been coming forward.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, the makeup of the legislature, we knew it was going to change quite a bit, there was a ton of turnover. What is it 40 Something percent are brand new legislators this time around after redistricting. So what has kind of crystallized in the legislature has been kind of three groups when it comes to public education policy, I'd say one group is kind of just ideologically and sort of emotionally connected to the idea of of destroying public education as an entire concept. There's not a lot going on under there, except for just a complete drive to do that. And so they're linking public education to all of the conspiracy theories that we've seen over the past couple of years, be it three letter acronyms like SEO and CRT. You know, stuff about LGBTQ plus students. You name it. They're trying to slander public education to meet that goal of eroding it as a institution in America. Really?

Paul Stark:

Can I jump in real to Chris, you know, it seems like to they're, they're interested in like, kind of social issue fights, they're not it doesn't seem like that faction is really interested in like, putting anything forward that is constructive to policy or to building you know, the constitutional mandate for education. So it seems like it's a lot of Destructo and quite a bit less like building the barn.

Chris Parri:

Totally. And like fishing around for things that kind of, like impact people on social issues, right. So they can kind of get out they call those dog whistles. I think so. Yes. dog whistles. That's kind of the culture wars. That's yeah, that's right.

Mike Journee:

And I guess I will just since since Paul jumped in, I want to jump into and just kind of make a quick plug for a story that's out there that was posted today on the website of the Idaho Capitol sun. And it's an extraordinary fine piece of journalism from from a reporter named Kelsey Mosley Morris, where she takes a really deep dive into the dark money interest behind vouchers behind supposedly so called school choice. And, and and the national campaign that's ongoing around in states across the country, including Idaho to bring to get a toehold for vouchers. They've been successful in other states. We're going to talk about that a little bit here. It's special in Arizona. And but but I would highly encourage folks to go and take a look at that story on the Idaho Capitol son website. It's an extraordinary piece of work. So

Chris Parri:

yeah, so good. Oh, yeah.

Paul Stark:

Before Paul. Yeah. In that to the legislation that we saw on vouchers is actually basically a cut and paste from a national warehouse of policy writers that write things nationally. It's not Idaho. It doesn't it wasn't born here in Idaho. Believe me. It was born somewhere in New York City or Cincinnati are similar. And what we're doing is we're seeing this this kind of cut and paste foreign policy being imposed upon Idaho where is traditionally we've seen education policy drafted by Idahoans for the needs of Idaho. It's not this kind of national, right. And

Chris Parri:

the folks that are carrying it are folks from my group I mentioned, it's that group of people who are ideologically dedicated to just be against public education. And this is how they're trying to chisel at it this year. And probably next year, I'm probably a year after who knows. But what I found really interesting. So Paul mentioned how this is model policy. Basically, it's being passed around by these dark money groups, who are funded by billionaires and massive corporations. And they are it's just mimicry across the nation as far as these bills go. And contrasting that to what Governor little said at our Lobby Day dinner when he was there, where he talked about how he had studied education systems in other states, and sees why sometimes something might work in one state versus another state. And he's being very nuanced about what would work in Idaho, particularly when it comes to school choice and having a public framework for school choice that actually makes sense for Idahoans not just copy and pasting a policy from Arizona, which has a copy and paste policy from, you know, Wisconsin or something like that. So I found that it's just such an amazing contrast to me to have folks be focused on Idaho first policy, like the governor, versus, you know, copy and paste policy,

Paul Stark:

and the governor and the governor's hearing from Idaho educators on the ground Idaho educators, whereas the other hot side they're hearing from Betsy DeVos is lead lobbyist, you know, those are two very different voices and coming from two very different places. That's right,

Mike Journee:

bring it back full circle to where we started with, with these three groups, Chris, and we thought we've got this, this this, what I'm going to call the the enemies of public education group, honestly, I mean, there's just really there's no other label you can put on them that doesn't that and they're they're not ever going to see things the way that our members do. That's right. Yeah. So continue with your with your

Chris Parri:

shirt. Yeah. So then, okay, so we could talk about that third group forever. But luckily, they are a, a small, tiny, loud minority in the legislature. The next group, I wanted to chat about kind of, at the, in the core of some of these discussions is this group that is well meaning, and that we agree with on some things, but kind of get, they have misguided alliances, sometimes particularly on school choice, because at the core of school choice is some you know, they'll hear about it all over the place in media as a good idea. And there's there's a whole media structure dedicated to pushing the idea that vouchers are a good idea, funded by the same people we were just talking about funded by the exactly funded by the same groups that we were just talking about. There's a whole media sphere dedicated the idea that vouchers are a good idea, not just for students that are going to private, and parochial and home schools, but for public schools, as well. And so you'll hear sometimes in the statehouse, from this group of people who believe vouchers will improve public education, when we all know our members will know. And we have all of our data that says, of course it doesn't. And so that group is a group that I still enjoy talking to and trying to get convinced onto our side of things and are movable on on issues, because again, they they their heart is in the right place, if even if they've been misguided. Down the voucher path, I guess we could say. And then finally, we get to the bulk of the legislature, I think the majority of the legislature in both chambers, who are dedicated to public education, they see how hard our educators work. They resist these efforts to dismantle public education. They're looking for innovative, what innovative ways to to make public education work for Idaho and make school choice work for Idaho, if you want to use the term school choice for these different kinds of public options that are presented to parents voucher schools up to about your Yeah, that's right. Yeah. So the bulk of the legislature agrees that we want a strong and effective public education system in Idaho that serves all students is accountable to taxpayers, all of the things that you don't get with vouchers. So as this is materializing, it's becoming clear that we do have a very strong piece of the legislature that wants to defend public education, and we're working with them. And hand in hand, and thankfully, I

Mike Journee:

think that includes the chairpersons of both education committees, in spite of one committee being a challenge for us, and as well as the Governor as well, the governor is squarely in in that side of things. And so I think that that bodes well for our members and for the policy initiatives that they're that we're bringing forward. So

Paul Stark:

can I make a quick point and that is, and this is on a previous podcast as well. But let's not forget that every one of those legislators took an oath to be pro public education. And the reason I say that is because they took an oath to uphold the Idaho constitution, and the Idaho constitution is unequivocal in its support of public education in the requirement It's not a discretionary matter, it is required constitutionally required. And yet we see those that took that oath that are working towards destroying what the Constitution requires,

Mike Journee:

and even passing legislation to amend the Constitution just to get their particular policy piece through, which probably is a good segue to some of the stuff you want to talk about Mike, one of the more blatant places that we kind of see this dynamic at play is probably in the Senate Education Committee. And that's where we saw legislation come forward this week, and two different pieces of legislation come forward, the first being a constitutional amendment, where the this lawmaker, Brian Lennie from Nampa, he wants to eliminate a clause of the Idaho constitution that supposedly prohibits public money from being used on religious private education. And, and so that that's one that's come forward this week. He came forward on Monday and, Paul to tell us a little bit about the background of the so called Blaine Amendment. And, and, and how we kind of got here around this this topic. Yeah, blade

Paul Stark:

amendment is a misnomer. I mean, it's easy to call it a blade meme and people know what you're talking about. It's actually a no gift clause is what the more proper way to call it Blaine have was a senator, US senator, who wanted this to be part of every new state that as they join the union, that they would have to have a certain provision there that says you can't give public dollars over to religious schools. And it didn't go anywhere on the federal level. But nonetheless, a lot of states adopted such policies on their own, and Idaho was one of them. In the in the early days of Idaho at 90 when the Constitution was adopted here in Idaho, there was a no gift clause and then basically said, Hey, we're not going to use any state dollars to support religions. And it talks about religious schools as well. And this is the classic church, separation of church and state kind of thing. And I think most of our listeners will understand what that means. So that Blaine Amendment is out there, there was a US Supreme Court case that I think is largely misunderstood by many of the proponents of vouchers, and that is this case of Espinosa versus Montana. That case comes from an individual who received a scholarship in Montana, and took that scholarship been tempted to use it at a private religious school. Montana, like Idaho had had their version of a no aid clause in their constitution and the Montana Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. It was then appealed to the US Supreme Court that ruled that the no aid clause was unconstitutional, but it's not the way that it's been spun. And this is a crucial difference. The US Supreme Court did not say that state legislatures or state had, you know, governments had to fund private education, nothing even close to that and and that's the way it's been spun is oh, well Espinosa. So we can go ahead and fund private schools, it did not say that. What Espinosa stands for is you cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. That's all it says. And in these no aid clauses to the extent Montana's said that you can't send this to a religious school, the Supreme Court said, if you're going to fund private education, then you once you do that, you can't discriminate based upon it being a religious school versus a non religious school. That's all that they said. They did not say we had to fund private education or the doors flung open for private education. And indeed, the legislature is well within their discretion to say we're not going to find private schools. Going to Senator Lenny's constitutional amendment getting back to that, honestly, the best thing that I could do is amend the no aid clause, the Blaine Amendment that we have in our constitution to say that no money will flow to private schools, period. Yeah, I get it. Let's take out the religious discrimination. You know, I'm I understand that is the law of the land now. And it was reaffirmed in another case, Carson, coming out of the state of Maine. So I don't have any problem personally was saying, let's take out the religion qualifier in there. But what we should say is no taxpayer dollars should fund private education, because it's just plumb not our constitutional mandate.

Mike Journee:

Right. And, and this is moving forward, the, from what I understand 37 or 50 states have this clause in their state constitutions as a result of that, that national that national effort, kind of going forward. This needs two thirds to happen in in both houses of the legislature then a majority in order for it to actually go through to the Constitution. A majority of voters in the in the next statewide election have to approve it. So this was introduced last Monday, Chris, do you have any idea about when this is going to come forward and when Paul's gonna be out? We'll make these points about it when he testifies, it's

Chris Parri:

a extremely contentious idea to break open the Constitution and start playing with things in there. As Paul mentioned, all of the legislators took an oath to the Constitution as it is. So it's going to be a tall order, I think, to get particularly two thirds of the legislature, let alone a majority, I think they're both tall orders on this one. I don't even know if it's going to get a hearing in whatever committee they try and run it through, because it is such a contentious and kind of harebrained idea to really go after this, right. Like, like Paul mentioned, if a voucher bill were to pass, and suddenly you started opening up a whole bunch of funds that go to the go to private schools, the that's kind of when people would have standing to kind of start suing the state if they if they really wanted to use this money for a parochial school or something like that. So this seems to be to me to be sort of a a legislator, looking at the Constitution, identifying pieces of it, that he wishes were out of there, and then trying to push it through himself. And I don't see a whole bunch of people kind of lining up behind them for this one. I think it's a nonstarter than I would be surprised to see it ever hit the House or Senate floor, but I have been certainly wrong in the past. So we will see

Paul Stark:

Chris my right that the some of the polling that we've looked at show that the the citizens of Idaho have no appetite for sending taxpayer dollars to private schools because of religious or sectarian we, we were not looking even amongst likely Republican primary voters. There's really not an appetite, there's so much higher priorities, like let's get some money to our rural schools where they're really hurting. And let's get our classified employees back on board. You know, I saw a report yesterday that Idaho is 49 out of 51 for pay for classified or what we call ESP education support personnel that they this these are the individuals in our schools that really make things work and allow educators to excel and really allow learning to blossom. And yet we're 49th in the nation. So I applaud Governor little for trying to make some efforts in that regard.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, so the the polling that we have on that says that only 18% of Idahoans prioritize sending taxpayer money or allowing taxpayer funds to go towards private school tuition, compared to upwards of 90% which is like shocking, you'll hardly ever see that in polls. And upwards of 90% who support paying teachers a fair salary and paying classified staff a living wage so they can stick around. It's it blows vouchers out of the water as far as where voucher voters are prioritizing issue these issues.

Paul Stark:

So is it safe to say that anybody listening this podcast should rest assured the public in Idaho continually as they have support public education? Absolutely,

Chris Parri:

just like you see in the legislature and extremely loud minority pushing a lot of these controversial things. That's how it is in the state. It is a extremely loud minority of people who are attacking public education, while 90% of us are on board and supporting our teachers.

Mike Journee:

Well, then, let's move on to a voucher bill that was introduced this week by by Senator Tammy Nichols from Middleton, AZ as is typical with voucher proponents, this bill has a very benign moniker of a of an education savings account. But we all know them as vouchers. And this is modeled after Arizona's universal education savings account that they put in place that has kind of taken on a life of its own down there and become quite controversial as well. So Chris, you know, she says that this is going to have an estimated price tag of about $20 million of use. you're skeptical that tell us why.

Chris Parri:

So there's, um scuttled for for a few reasons. So a, I think the fiscal note is only counting people who would be taking advantage of the the voucher for private schools that are already in public school.

Mike Journee:

So people who would leave public schools to go to a private school resulted, right

Chris Parri:

so she's estimating that that would cost 20 million for the folks that are in public schools that want to take their money out and put it into private school tuition. What we've seen in every state that has passed, this is a plethora of people taking advantage of this who have never encountered the public education system at all. So in Arizona, for example, 80% of the people taking the vouchers down there have never been in a public school. They were already attending a public school or private school, I'm sorry, or a parochial school, or they were being homeschooled. The other really questionable piece of this is that since we we don't regulate home schools and private schools in Idaho at all, we have no idea how many homeschool students actually are in Idaho. We know there's around 15,000 Probably more than that in private school. So those are people that we should probably be accounting for. I mean, if I if I had my kids in private school, I would definitely be taking a voucher to help pay for it. Tuition is expensive? Of course I would. So there's those folks that I think would impact the cost of this that are not currently being accounted in that $20 million number that she presented, and the homeschool folks who are also eligible for these funds to go towards their education. We have no idea how many how many homeschool students there are in the state. There's estimates out there but again, since we, you know, the we aren't regulating them or asking them how to report back to us. We have no idea how much this could end up costing.

Mike Journee:

So your guess is she's she's low balling this number is borne out by what's happening in Arizona right now. Right. Talk to us about that a little bit. Yeah. So

Chris Parri:

I'll have to check on the budget numbers to get the exact amount but I think they are there. They're ESA voucher system down there is over budget by over $300 million dollars, which is a lot to say the least. And

Mike Journee:

and they're pulling that money from public school classrooms to pay for that. That's exactly

Chris Parri:

right. Yeah. So you end up cutting public school funds. I think down there, they're looking some some politicians are thinking about cutting public school funding in Arizona by 17% to help fund the ballooning costs of their voucher program that serves maybe 10% of the students in that state.

Paul Stark:

Unfortunately, too, you know, what gets cut tends to be like Career, Technical Education, and some of those really important, especially for our rural communities. Those are some of the first to get cut. When the and we've seen that, you know, in it sounds like Chris him Is it safe to say that this is like a massive windfall for the for, you know, wealthy urban people who are sending their kids to private schools. And anyway, it's just a it's just a giveaway to them, isn't it? That's certainly

Chris Parri:

like, so I think the big windfall is for the people who are the billionaires who are funding this right, like the folks who have who profit off of these massive kind of corporations that helped them private schools, not a lot of the private schools in Idaho currently are like that a lot of them are Idaho owned Idaho grown. Same, but it's

Mike Journee:

not just private schools. It's also platforms for for homeschooling, its platforms for online schooling. It's all those things that these are corporations, that's right, that that put these things together, and are selling them to states when the when the voucher programs, nor

Chris Parri:

can I so the big windfall is our folks that will own and operate these private schools and getting now getting taxpayer funds being able to raise their tuition by almost exactly the amount of the voucher to continue to serve the students that they want to serve. In essence, this bill is not school choice for parents at school choice for private schools.

Paul Stark:

You can contrast that also can't do with Governor littles empowering parents grant, which really is focused on those that are lowest income that really need the assistance. And that that seems to be like an Idaho way of doing things is that hey, look, if someone really needs assistance, or getting the money where it needs to go, I'd see those two is like night and day diff.

Mike Journee:

And that's and that's what the the governor's staff who've been testifying in these in these education committees have been saying, that's what the superintendent superintendent has been saying. In fact, early on in the session, during the education committee hearing, she was asked specifically about so called ESA education savings accounts. And she immediately labeled a voucher and said she can't support it. That's right. So, you know, it's great for our members to hear and to understand that these important policymakers are standing with them on this on this important issue.

Paul Stark:

And the imperiling parents grant has stat accountability lever, that it really has been a hallmark of the Idaho legislature for over a decade about funding needs accountability to go with it. But as far as I can tell, there really is no accountability mechanism in the Nichols voucher bill.

Chris Parri:

It's it's completely unaccountable. There's nothing in here to report back to taxpayers and taxpayers have an obligation. I mean, I think that as a taxpayer, I am entitled to know where my tax dollars are going and whether or not it's effective, right. That's why you hear from public schools so often about test scores and trends and all this other good stuff. Because we have accountability built into it. We have accountability and in the charter school system as well, which is why a whole bunch of charter school people are coming out actually against this to they're saying this, we have no idea if the funding that is going to go into this is actually going to benefit any student.

Paul Stark:

And isn't there some hilarious part of the nickels voucher bill that is something like the voucher could also be taken to use for college. Yeah. Like it's yours

Chris Parri:

to be that way. It seems to be a bullet point that says you can use it for post secondary institutions. And I was like,

Mike Journee:

probably a leftover from another state or That's exactly right. So I mean, that's that's exactly what we're talking about. And I think one of the more interesting things and this is another phrase that Boucher proponents like to say is let's look at this the money follow the student right. And Paul that complete He ignores the notion that you take that money out of a public school classroom, they still at school still has to pay that teacher, they still have to pay the the education support professionals, they still have to pay the bus drivers in the end, and they have to pay for the buildings, they have to do all the things that they normally do anyway, without that money.

Paul Stark:

That's exactly right. You know, this is what anybody who's run a home budget would know this, there's things called fixed costs, and you'll hear you have to heat your house, whether you have 10 kids in the house or one kid in the house, you still got to heat the house, and that heats gonna cost exactly the same. Every school district deals with fixed cost. And you have to have a teacher in the front front of the classroom. And it's not like, if you raid a, you know, a school district and you you take away, you know, 20% of their students, that somehow now they somehow save costs on teachers. In fact, we've seen in other states that a lot of these private schools, they won't take English language learners, they won't take special ed students, you know, they won't take those that are very resource demanding, and rightfully so. But with public education, we educate everyone that is that is the noblest thing we can ever say is that we educate everyone. And these private schools, guess what they don't,

Chris Parri:

they can discriminate. And they do that one of my favorite kind of like little images of that is the idea. So I grew up in rural Idaho, the idea of like a student being miles and miles away from the school, and still a bus driver will pick them up every day, and take them to school, and we aren't going to leave that kid out there. You know, I think that that is such a like, wonderful and noble thing that is speaking to the the the values of taxpayers in Idaho, who are setting up these obligations to, you know, pick up every kid, hate every school, make every school safe for every kid, right? Like, I love that idea. And to see these attacks on the public school system coming after those kind of values, is I can get pretty fired up.

Mike Journee:

You guys are doing a great job kind of going through the tick list of all the reasons why vouchers are such a bad idea for not any for any public school system. But one of the things that that the superintendents Chief of Staff was talking about in public hearing earlier this week was I was already a leader and the governor mentioned this to Idaho's already a leader in in choice in public schools, all the different options that ideal families have within public schools, whether it's gifted and talented, whether it's online, whether it's it's a charter school, all those options are exist within the public school system as it is and a better funding formula for for Idaho public education would would probably improve that.

Paul Stark:

You know, it's, it's, a lot of the proponents of vouchers, try to cloak it in parental choice, school choice. Choice, you know, because everyone is pro choice. And in frankly, the IEA is pro choice. If a if a if a parent wants to send there someone wants to send their child to homeschool or whatever, they have that choice, it's very clear, there's no doubt about that. What we're talking about, and let's be blunt about this, what we're talking about is who pays for that choice. That's what they want. They want every taxpayer in the state of Idaho to pay for their choice to send them to, you know, a very expensive private school, a school that is out of reach, probably for 97% of all of Idaho, or maybe even close to it and is

Mike Journee:

not and has absolutely zero oversight or recourse for taxpayers as well. There's no elected officials involved in running those schools. There's no elected officials involved in setting standards for those schools at all, unlike public schools, which, from Bell to bell, everything that happens in a public school is overseen by an elected official somewhere.

Paul Stark:

And where else in society do we see such a blank check? You know that we just give you a blank check without any accountability, and it and it's on the taxpayers wallet that this happens. You know, the other thing too, that we haven't talked about as most of these private schools, and I know nearly all of them are in just a couple urban areas. You know, this does nothing for our rural districts or even our semi rural districts. This is entirely an urban issue. And our rural districts are going to be paying the price for that very expensive dinner.

Chris Parri:

And the we can follow this all the way back to the issues with with property tax payers in different areas, voting every year to tax themselves to help support their local public schools. As Paul mentioned, a lot of these these private schools and parochial schools are in very populated counties in Idaho. So a lot in the Treasure Valley down here. A couple up in quarter lane, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls those areas. Other there's 20 counties in Idaho that have zero private schools or parochial school options. Were there a portion of the The funding that those schools, school districts will get will instead be going to fund these vouchers. That means that those schools are going to get less funds, no choice out of it, quote, unquote, and have to vote again and again, continually like they are in our chronically underfunded education space to keep the lights on.

Paul Stark:

So you're thinking even greater increase in levies? Right and in bonds in order to support the local school in rural districts. Thus, doesn't that just Chris, doesn't that just mean more burden on property taxes at

Chris Parri:

a time and we know how important property tax reform is to the vast majority of legislators in that building? So to see people kind of thinking that school choice is the answer somehow to an education problem, you're just creating a litany of massive other problems down the road related to accountability, ballooning budgets, and not even and then state taking steps backwards on property taxes. Well, it's a fascinating look at.

Mike Journee:

I want to change topics a little bit, guys, and talk a little bit about IEA. Local lobby days. Local lobby days are an opportunity for our our local chapters, to bring their members to the legislature and talk about the issues that are important to them. On January 23, we had the West ADA Education Association, come over and talk to lawmakers. And we had and I had an opportunity to talk with one of the members, Tara Bastian, she's a member from Mountain View High School, and she teaches English and theater out there in Meridian. And she wanted to she told me a little bit about her conversation with Representative Chris awlgrip, from Caldwell, about the need to pay our education support professionals a little bit better. It's something that we were just talking about. And I wanted to give this give you this perspective through her clip.

Unknown:

I think he was really interested in hearing where we are with classified staff and how they're, you know, they're getting paid maybe $14 an hour when they can go get 18 at McDonald's. They have been really receptive and understanding that the challenges it presents when we don't have classified staff to support us in the classroom with our students who may have real needs that can disrupt a classroom. And so they're starting to understand that disruption to the classroom in the learning environment, it is when we do not have classified staff. Now, guys,

Mike Journee:

I thought that was really great that that we're starting to hear that lawmakers are understanding this challenge that that's facing our members all across the state. And looks like, you know, the governor's proposals for better pay for education support professionals is going to is on good legs. And it's really good to hear those conversations happening from our members. And I gotta say, I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that our members have been in the building talking to lawmakers about that, Chris,

Chris Parri:

yeah, that one of the most common stories that legislators were hearing when we had our big lobby day and then also during West ADA is Lobby Day. And as a note, I'm extremely excited for these local lobby days for a litany of reasons but for classified staff, I think that one of the one of the most common stories we've been hearing is that there are just not enough classified staff in the building. And they are wearing so many hats, just like the educators are that they are, you know, of course, there's a lot of burnout and some other things, but they're just doing as best as they can while doing a million jobs that have gone unfilled. And, you know, with behavioral issues and mental issues in classrooms on the rise are spiking after the COVID pandemic. I think it's really important that we have enough enough folks in those rooms to support our educators and administrators to there's a united front on education stakeholders on supporting classified staff and ensuring that we can attract and retain qualified, classified staff across the state from superintendents all the way to the classified staff themselves. So

Mike Journee:

well, and you know, we've touched on it briefly about the facilities, the huge deficit in school facility maintenance and replacement did kind of come up this week. And the office of performance evaluations presented its findings from a January 2022 report that showing the state state's kind of laissez faire attitude about school buildings has created a problem. And that's something our members have been talking about as well. I've got another clip here from Tara again, where she's talking she's talking about that.

Unknown:

There has been conversation about around funding for facilities, which is a really good and valuable conversation, especially in our area in West data where you know, we're over capacity and our buildings and we're still growing basketball. We're the fastest still the fastest growing I think what number in the top five of the fastest growing now We went down from number one to like number five, you know, so, but we're still growing, they're still coming in, we're still selling homes, and those homes have two to three children each. And those kids need to be educated. Right. And we we have a mandate by the state to educate them.

Mike Journee:

So Chris, you know, with an estimated budget surplus of $1.5 billion, and that's on top of the tax breaks that have already happened to September, on top of the investment that we've made in education, we still think there's another $1.5 billion dollars in available. Do you think this is this issue is going to ripen this year? It sounds like from what I was hearing from the committee hearings today that lawmakers are interested.

Chris Parri:

Yeah. So Chairman daveland, of the Senate Education Committee, mentioned that his members on that committee can expect to see some legislation about school facilities this year, which is really exciting. I'm excited for us to start tackling this issue. But the gap is huge. So in those presentations that you mentioned, Mike, the just to get of the schools surveyed, which was not all of the schools in the state, it was around 77 school school districts. They estimated cost $894 million to get us up to with school facilities up to good condition. So just good operating condition for all the schools in those districts, which is not the best, right, there's another there's another tear, and that's the perfect condition. But we can hope to get the good and it will cost $800 million, if not more than that. across the state. So

Paul Stark:

it's good, I think at this point to applaud our legislators that are finally paying attention. There's so many, so many years, it was just a blind eye to this. And it's not that people weren't talking about it. They just didn't care to hear it. And it's such a you know, hats off to our current state house right now, that is actually listening. And those that are listening and hearing that this needs to

Mike Journee:

end you want to talk about property tax reform. Right. There you go. Right. Well, guys, I think we've run out of time. And I want to thank you all for the conversation today about the first couple of weeks of legislative session. Chris, I think we're gonna we're gonna see that bathroom bill come up. Next week, most likely, we'll probably see some more more ideas from coming from a variety of of lawmakers around about about education policy. So I look forward to having those conversations with you guys then, and thanks for joining me.

Chris Parri:

Thanks, Mike. Yeah, thanks, mate.

Mike Journee:

Thank you for listening to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast, and this discussion about the early weeks of 2023 Idaho legislature. Thanks as well to my colleague, Chris Perry, and Paul Stark for joining me. Please watch for future updates about new episodes on IEA social media channels or sign up for email updates on our website at Idaho eaa.org. I'm Mike journee. And as always, I hope you join me in thanking Idaho's public school educators for everything they do for our State students, families, and public schools.