IEA HOTLINE Podcast

Idaho Legislature - Week 4

February 11, 2023 Mike Journee Season 1 Episode 8
Idaho Legislature - Week 4
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
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IEA HOTLINE Podcast
Idaho Legislature - Week 4
Feb 11, 2023 Season 1 Episode 8
Mike Journee

In this episode of IEA's HOTLINE Podcast, we discuss Week 4 of the Idaho Legislature’s 2023 session. Our discussion centers around bond and levy elections on March 14 and proposed legislation to limit school district opportunities to put such measures before voters (House Bill 58). We also discuss legislation (House Bill 114) expanding protections for educators from physical violence —  a problem educators face all to often — and IEA's coming testimony on Tuesday against the session's first voucher bill (Senate Bill 1038). We also discuss IEA Local Lobby Days, which last Monday included members from Vallivue Education Association and Caldwell Education Association.

 Joining the conversation are:

  • IEA’s Political Director Chris Parri
  • IEA Executive Director Paul Stark

 

 

 

 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of IEA's HOTLINE Podcast, we discuss Week 4 of the Idaho Legislature’s 2023 session. Our discussion centers around bond and levy elections on March 14 and proposed legislation to limit school district opportunities to put such measures before voters (House Bill 58). We also discuss legislation (House Bill 114) expanding protections for educators from physical violence —  a problem educators face all to often — and IEA's coming testimony on Tuesday against the session's first voucher bill (Senate Bill 1038). We also discuss IEA Local Lobby Days, which last Monday included members from Vallivue Education Association and Caldwell Education Association.

 Joining the conversation are:

  • IEA’s Political Director Chris Parri
  • IEA Executive Director Paul Stark

 

 

 

 

Mike Journee:

Welcome to Idaho Education Association's hotline podcast, a weekly discussion about what's happening at the Idaho legislature around public education and the policy priorities of ies members, IEA members or public school educators from all over the state. They're 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. Today we discuss week four of the Idaho legislature is 2023 session. Our discussion centers around bond and levy elections on March 14, and the proposed legislation to limit school district opportunities to put such measures before voters. We also discuss legislation expanding protections for educators from physical violence, a problem educators face all too often. And next week's hearing on the sessions first voucher bill. joining me for today's conversation, our IEA political director Chris Perry, and IEA executive director Paul Stark. Chris, Paul, thanks for joining us. For this discussion about week four of the Idaho legislature. It's been things are starting to pick up quite a bit with the legislature, we've got a couple bills that we want to talk about today. And we want to talk about them in context in context, one, at least one of them in context, what's happening in the real world. There's a bill that's come out, House Bill 58, to eliminate March and August, school election dates, traditionally, there's been four days for school districts can come before taxpayers in their district and ask them for bonds and levies. We have a bill here that's going to try to eliminate two of those one in March one in August. In fact, we have an election set to go this March March 14. And I did a little bit of a little bit of research around what's on the agenda for the for the ballots around the state. And we've got about 16 districts that are gonna be holding bond or levy elections, asking local taxpayers for around $400 million. Right, and we're gonna and we can talk about, we can talk about bonds and levies and kind of the baked in nature. They are have they have with school districts, budgets these days. But first and foremost, let's talk about this legislation. Have you have you heard much about this bill? What do you think about it, Chris?

Chris Parri:

So I'm not excited about it. So the representative, his justification was that, you know, elections cost a bunch of taxpayer money, and why not consolidate them all into the ones that we have, you know, that are that everyone's most familiar with the primary elections on 11 years and the general elections on an 11 years. To me, I look at the kind of the broader landscape of governance in Idaho. And I look at how folks feel about the legislature, which is not great. I think they have pretty, it's a pretty low approval rating for the Idaho legislature but then contrasting that with how people feel about their local government. Those local government elections are on odd years, they're kind of they're out of the scope of the the kind of more politically charged kind of general elections national state general elections. And it's kind of similar with I think, school levies and bonds, when you have these kind of unique local elections. The partisanship and the issue, the you know, high level kind of ideological back and forth, that that doesn't really filter down to the taxpayer kind of gets filtered away, and people have a much more okay, the issue I'm voting on is my public schools, it's much more practical cuts through a lot of that other you know, kind of, well, garbage really, that we kind of deal with in those more, those bigger elections where, you know, it is super politically charged, and really gets people focus on the issue at hand school districts.

Paul Stark:

Yeah, there was a day that education was not political, if we can imagine that. But it has been so politicized, remember, local levies, local bonds, those are local issues, and those are asking the community to support their public schools. Traditionally, of course, supplemental levies were to buy a new band uniforms or instruments, you know, bonds were like what we needed to buy, you know, kind of work towards in a new building or something of that sort. But now they've become survival levees and survival bonds really, bonds are to keep, you know, ceilings from falling in nowadays. And levees are just to keep the lights on and really, when you when you say that amount, 16. Mike with what 400 million? Is that what you said? You know, that? Isn't that just a barometer on how how the legislature has really walked away from their constitutional responsibilities.

Mike Journee:

That's right. We've talked about that a number of times on this on this podcast about about the fact that they that local school districts rely on this money and that's not the way supposed to be they were they're originally intended to be for emergencies. They're really intended to be for short term needs, and things beyond the scope of provide In an equitable and foundational education for students, and but they've turned into something very different. And I think one really good example that's on the ballot this March is encoder lane. We've been hearing from members there that are concerned about that election up there, they've got a bond measure on on the ballot that's going to they're asking the school district asking for it to be in perpetuity for $25 million. And that's, that's, that's a quarter of the school district's budget. And if that doesn't pass, and then if recent history is any indication, it's going to be a it's going to be a tough one to pass. There's going to be significant programmatic cuts, there's going to be significant, perhaps educator cuts, and also salary cuts to those who don't get laid off. So, you know, this really, I think, underlines how much of a of a systemic and endemic problem this is for school districts. One thing I often hear lawmakers talk about Paul is is how, and I think this might be what this is aimed at is how school districts come back for a second bites at the apple if they don't pass one previously. But at the same time, this is really about the desperate need for this funding.

Paul Stark:

Yeah, that's right. It's hard to say second bites of the apple. And when you when you haven't had your dinner, you know, of course, you want one more more than one bite, you're going to try to because these districts are starving the supplemental levies or survival levies, and in Cordyline, in particular, any of the listeners that are listening to this should wake up and pay attention to this one because a failure to pass this Levy and quarter lane will likely mean some very draconian things happening to the school district. Cordyline is a fantastic school district and has been for many years. But there are some outside of the school district, some political, very politically charged entities that are working actively to defeat this Levy, which will only result in a degradation of the services that are provided to the students and the opportunities to provide these students remember, let's not forget we're talking about students here. We're talking about their the future of of the United States, we're talking about, you know, who pays your Social Security kind of thing. This is very, very important. We cannot neglect our kids.

Mike Journee:

Right. And and Chris, we've heard from from members up there that that they expect if cuts do come we're talking about important programs, like career technical education, we're talking about special education, we're talking about sports, sports, yeah.

Chris Parri:

I mean, music, art, all of that stuff is on the chopping block in particular. I mean, this is a huge chunk of their budget, they just, they're gonna have to, if it doesn't pass, they're gonna have trouble just keeping the lights on, let alone staffing art music. Band, well band is music, but sports and all the things you mentioned, like, and that's what's so kind of when I think about bills like this one, going back to that one, like, if this is what it looks like when things become political, you literally have folks advocating for the destruction of art, music, sports programs, imagine what's going to look like if they if they consolidate all of these issues into the May primary in the November general election, imagine them all of that.

Paul Stark:

Well, the issue becomes a lot less local, doesn't it? Right? I mean, these are local, this is a local community saying we're going to as a community, support our school districts, well, now they're getting all tied in to all of the national politics, all of the other statewide politics. And it becomes very much not a local issue at that point.

Chris Parri:

And that's kind of what I mean that that's kind of what they want, right? Like they anything they can do to put distance between a school district and the needs of the students there. And the voter, they they want that they do want to see public funding go down for public education. We know that. And this is just a further kind of extension of another scheme to try and do that.

Matt Compton:

And for anybody who wants to follow along, it's it's House Bill 58. It was brought forward by Representative Alfieri. And it you know, this quick rundown of some of the other items that are going to be on the ballot, you know, we have Kuna. They're going to be going and asking for$111 million dollars. This year, one of the fastest growing districts cities in the state with the fast one of the fastest growing districts and they have facility needs that they need to get get out. And this is part of the start of a 10 year apparently a 10 year strategy that they have for funding their growth out there. We also have Nampa, who is asking for 200 million for new schools and repairs of aging buildings. So again, you know this these are fundamental costs for operating a school district not nice to have.

Paul Stark:

What are the issue we should talk about really is that a few years back, the legislature put in some laws that really kind of put a gag order on school districts on their abilities to discuss with the public the need for these levies. And so what we have is we have districts just dying for survival. I mean really low Looking at cutting just all of these programs, these important student programs, and they can't say very much at all about it. And then on the other hand, we have some groups, some politically motivated, politically funded groups out there that are hardcore fighting against it. And it's not really a fair fight. It's not a level playing ground at that point, when there's people that can just throw out any kind of allegation. And the district is just extremely limited on what they can even say they can't even respond to some of those allegations. And this is, again, why I think the community really has to wake up and take a look at these things. Because if they really come see what's happening to districts, they'll realize some of the propaganda is absolutely unfounded. And then they'll also realize the hard work that these public educators are doing in their local district, and how much the students that are benefiting by it.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, all we got, you know, our competitive advantage in these fights is people that's what we got, the other side has enough money to pepper the whole district with mail and lies and all that stuff. We all we have is our members and the folks in the community who care about their public schools. So it's, it's critically important that members can be that first. Front in this fight for our school, fundings, and our public school students. I mean, it's, it's wild to think that art music sports are on the chopping block like this,

Paul Stark:

And educators need to talk about it. Yeah, that's what I mean, like, like, the time to be passive or the time for apathy is long past. They need to talk about with their family members, with their neighbors, with their parents, and really let them know what's at stake.

Mike Journee:

And going back to this legislation that's here, it's going to limit our, our school districts ability to come forward and ask members, or ask the public about, about taxing themselves for their schools. And so we want to make sure that that this bill goes down. We're working on that and we will keep folks informed about where where it stands. Let's move on then, guys. So another legend. Another bill that we want to talk about, is a bill about violence against teachers and was brought forward by Representative Chris Mathias, and it's co sponsored by the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee, Lori McCann, as well as IEA member so many modalities whose representative from the Boise area and and this bill is going to expand protections to cover all public school employees who who experience violence currently, teachers are the ones educators are the ones who are certified educators are the ones who are protected by this. Anyone who abuses a school district school teacher in the presence can be charged with a misdemeanor, this expands it a little bit. And, and it also zeroes in on definition about what this abuse could be. And it says to willfully and maliciously threaten, harass or coerce or intimidate. And Representative Matthias made a point of saying, you know, the current legislation is a little more vague about what that even means. So he's clearing that up. Chris, what are your thoughts about this situation?

Chris Parri:

Represent Matthias is a great, great ally to public educators. And so So is Lorie McCann represented Lorie McCann and Representative galleries. And this is a good I think, starting place for a bigger discussion about kind of de escalating some of the behaviors that we've seen, both from outside of schools and within schools to obviously, our member. This is unfortunately, not news to our members, but teachers across the state face abuse from students and from members of the public, particularly when education becomes the crosshairs for political opportunists nationwide, statewide. So I really liked this bill. It's also nice and short, which, as far as education policy goes, thank goodness. And it does kind of expand the protections to all school employees, administrators, classified staff, including teachers, and cleans up that definition of abuse. And I think it's a good foundation for for more legislation on this subject.

Paul Stark:

Yeah. You know, on a quick note to how refreshing it is to see Democrats and Republicans working together. I mean, I mean, we need more of that, like the country is way too divided. And to finally see this kind of thing happening. It's just so refreshing, especially to in this notion, like, I'm curious how the votes are gonna go on this because who would be in favor of abuse and intimidation and harassment of anybody? Like who would be opposed to this bill? That seems like so natural, like, yes, of course, we don't want educators to be abused. Of course, we don't want educators to be intimidated, you know, so it's, it's remarkable that we would see any opposition whatsoever to this. But I'm just I'm just I'm pleased as punch to see that we're finally hopefully in Idaho getting past these partisan tribalism and we're working towards a place where a sensible rational, good for people good for students legislation and can come forward.

Mike Journee:

Yeah, it's also kind of a shame that it has to happen too, because it's something that we've that we see too many headlines in the headlines are simply the ones that we know about. And we hear about on a daily basis, we've talked about it on this, on this show on this podcast before, where this is really, for most of our members, this is really about educating kids in the classroom and the disruptions that happen as a result of it. Often, we also, I think, I want to bring in the educator vacancy crisis that that Idaho is currently experiencing. And one of the ways that we often talk about this issue is around around the vacancy. Crisis is the pay situation and how little pay they get. This is this is really, but it's really about the amount of pay they get for the for the things that they have to do. And, and that's important. And so this brings back comes back to the governor's pay package that he brought forward for the state of the at the state of the state, and the importance of investing in all of our educators and the pay that we offer them so that we can bring more adults into the building, as Matt Compton likes to say, and and have them there and to help help when there is a crisis around behavior. Yeah,

Chris Parri:

I think we've long heard from members about the two sides of the scale, kind of like you mentioned, right? There's, there's the pay and benefits and stuff on one side of the scale. On the other side of the scale, it's usually in the terms we we hear from members is respect, right? Respect. And in that is includes things like abuse of of educators, and harassment and all that stuff. And I think, like you said, they're just not getting paid enough to deal with the stuff they have to so there's the governor side, raise the pay, and on the other side, start making sure they're protected and giving classified staff to the same same access to those protections. So I'm hoping we're moving forward on both sides of that scale.

Paul Stark:

The abuses crossed the line, frankly, it is it is long past the day to to look out for the type of abuse that is happening to educators every day in the districts. And that's that's, that's, that's something that absolutely needs to be addressed. But you're right, Mike, the the amount of pay you're given is commensurate with the duties you're asked to do. And it was hard enough already, as an educator to educate kids, which is a challenging task, anybody who doesn't think so take a day as a substitute teacher, would you please just one day go in and offered a substitute and you'll find out exactly what this kind of job does. But the abuse needs to be stopped. And it needs to be stopped immediately. What we find is not only are educators abused, but certainly the administrators and even the school board members are really abused when it comes to any attempt to say this behavior is not acceptable. And somehow we've got we've got ourselves to a place where educators are expected to tolerate any and every behavior no matter how bad it is, and take it with a smile on their face for less than you can make at McDonald's. And that's just, frankly, a bad place to be. So I'm really happy to see this coming about. And my hope is this will encourage our educators to stay in the profession.

Mike Journee:

Alright guys, so let's talk a little bit more about vouchers. We're going to have Tammy Nichols was the voucher bill is before us. This week. There was a hearing set for Tuesday. And we've talked about this bill pretty significantly. We talked about vouchers pretty significantly. The sponsors of this legislation, like to call it an education savings account, which we all know is is codeword for a voucher. And so, Paul, you're going to be you're going to be testifying on behalf of our members on Tuesday during this hearing. And what are you going to tell him?

Paul Stark:

Well, absolutely. It's it is a voucher. And that's the thing is, is the proponents of this bill know full well, what the terminology means and they're trying their best to, you know, it's voucher proponents try not to use the word voucher. But anytime that you see taxpayer dollars being funneled, even if it's through a third party, it's been funneled to pay tuition at private schools, ding, ding, ding, ding. That's a voucher. And let's not be dissuaded by the talk of those proponents. But mostly, I'm going to talk about accountability. And that's really a huge issue that everybody needs to understand is these taxpayer dollars have essentially zero accountability. It is a handout, mostly to wealthy individuals, mostly to those that live in in urban areas. The rural districts don't see any of this money. In fact, they'll see a drain from their districts that will flow and we've talked about this before. But accountability means that there's not an elected official that can be hold accountable if these monies are spent improperly. We see that in traditional schools. We see that in charter schools, we see that everywhere. But in this instance, it is the proverbial blank check. And once that money goes, guess what you taxpayers, you have no clue how it's being used or why it's being used. You don't get to understand if they're meeting any kind of particular criteria or curriculum or standards are anything. And this legislature has been hardcore about teacher accountability about school district accountability for ages now for a decade, more or more, and all of a sudden, we're ready to write the blank check. It just makes no sense.

Mike Journee:

And even if taxpayers could understand what's happening with this tax, these tax dollars, and if they decide they don't like it, they have no recourse whatsoever. i There's no way to unelect somebody, there's no way to deal with it. Unless they're unless they go after state lawmakers who decide that they vouchers are a good idea. There's not really any recourse recourse for them at all.

Chris Parri:

So it's never been repealed thus far in any of the states that have passed it even when the budgets explode. I mean, Arizona is, is a testament to this Wisconsin as well, Wisconsin, we got the oldest voucher program in the country, the tax property tax dollars have gone through the roof. And so I mean, we've talked about this before, but like it's, it's wild to talk with one side of your mouth about property tax relief, and then the other with vouchers. These are these are mutually exclusive programs. One causes property taxes go up, no matter. However you square it, it's gone up every state that passes vouchers, and every state that passes vouchers, the ratchet goes one direction, and that's bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger, and less funding for public schools that the local communities have to pick up the tab for and most of those local communities that are picking up the tab, rural, already underfunded, same problem we

Paul Stark:

Absolutely. I've I was speaking to someone yesterday who was telling me about Arizona, and the amount of tax increases that they are going to experience just to fund their voucher programs is phenomenal. And there's some that estimate it could be close to a billion dollars here very soon in Arizona to pay for their voucher program. I mean, that's the that's the exact opposite of what most of our legislators talked about, which is lower taxes and lower government, what we're creating is a bureaucracy and a tax scheme that we will never get out of.

Mike Journee:

And you juxtapose that against the earlier conversation about bonds and levies and Coeur d'Alene looking for survival money, right, versus this kind of a program that's going to take even more money away from public school.

Chris Parri:

We have this awesome college student in the office doing work for us through a fellowship program and the way she put it this morning was you know, so you got a pothole and we keep on through these bond and levy elections we keep on just replacing tires constantly, constantly, constantly make the car run. And what if we just filled the pothole? What if we just funded our public schools? Sheesh, I get fired up guys. I don't know.

Mike Journee:

So Nichols' bill is going to be up on Tuesday. We'll be there to register...

Paul Stark:

Happy Valentine's Day...

Chris Parri:

Romantic...

Mike Journee:

...our discontent, our members discontent with such legislation that our members are vehemently opposed to any voucher bill. And so they're going to be it'd be well represented by by Mr. Stark here. So. So Chris, we wanted to before we locked off, we want to talk a little bit about local lobby days. On on the on the sixth, we had Valleyview and Calwell. at the statehouse, talking with lawmakers, I believe you had an opportunity to spend some time with them. Tell us a little bit about what they did what who they talked to what were they talking about?

Chris Parri:

Yep. So they were they were talking quite a bit about vouchers. They they got to quite a few of their senators and representatives from that area. And some really great conversations happened. I mean, they talked to some of the most conservative people in that area. And now those folks, those same senators are, they're still kind of on the train of some of these social issues. But they're kind of also talking about how cool the Valley View and Caldwell teachers are because they are extremely cool. And, yeah, we got some really great feedback from the educators and from the legislators that I've spoken to and follow up conversations and stuff. So yeah, I couldn't be prouder of those educators, they're doing a great job up there.

Mike Journee:

So these local lobby days are are working, they're hit. And that's you know, that's the whole intent is to get educators in front of lawmakers so that they can talk about their day to day, and what how the issues and the policies that the legislature is considering impact them in the classroom.

Paul Stark:

I would like to say to that one of the most powerful tools that those that are listening to this have is to tell your real life stories, you know, the propaganda out there and the speculation and all that we've seen that over and over and over again, just dog whistles about social issues and things like that, that have no basis in reality, certainly not in Idaho. But you educators that are listening, please tell your story. And that means getting on your social media account and telling your actual story. Obviously, you don't include student names and things like that. But what you do is you say this is the reality I faced these are the kinds of things I'm looking at. These are the kinds of things I'm funding out of my own pocket. These are the textbooks that I'm using that a reference to the, you know, George W. Bush administration as the current administration. This is the kind of stories you need to tell, because you're you're working so hard out there, you're doing your best and you're doing a great job. But the general public doesn't understand exactly what what's what's happening. And so we need you to tell your stories. So any of those that are inclined to do so that are listening, please, please, please tell your story. We need that.

Mike Journee:

And if you and if you're you're interested in having your local come, we still have time, probably in some vacancies here later in the session, Chris, for oh, yeah, for for any of the IEA locals that want to come for a local lobby day, on March 28. We have Jim County Education Association and the Kashi County Education Association, that are going to be here. And also Idaho Falls Education Association as well. So we've got three that are going to be here on the 20th. That'll be a great opportunity. And but if you're interested, and our members are listening, talk to your local local president and it's on this is something that your local should be doing.

Chris Parri:

Absolutely. It's such a good opportunity to, I mean, some of these extremely conservative legislators that I mentioned, like, I do want to meet with them. But there's a herder curdle there, and to have educators kind of get in there and to share their stories and start like actually relating to these folks and having good conversations and building good relationships, makes my job way easier and helps education policy. get better over time. Yeah.

Mike Journee:

Well, gentlemen, thank you once again for joining us for this for this episode of the hotline podcast. Thanks, Mikey rock. Yep. Thanks. Thank you for listening to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast and this discussion about week four of the 2023 legislature. Thanks as well to my colleagues, 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 a State students, families and public schools.