Idaho voters approved a major win for our kids on Tuesday passing $695 million in bonds and levies for our schools. It’s obvious that Idahoans value quality education, but the GOP-controlled legislature refuses to fund public education to the necessary levels. In 2016, the GOP legislature funded public education to 2009 levels. Rep. Sally Toone said it best– “Excuse me?!”
This was a successful election, but we can’t be complacent. The Idaho GOP introduced several measures this year that would make it even harder to pass bonds/levies and would limit access to the polls. They tried moving school board elections to November. They tried to restrict early voting timelines. They’re trying to restrict how districts can educate voters about bonds/levies. They tried to get rid of schools as polling places.
The Idaho GOP is slowly dismantling our public education system. If public schools can’t perform basic functions, they’ll argue we need vouchers and charter schools. Stay engaged. It’s only the first half.
VOTERS APPROVE $695 MILLION FOR SCHOOLS
From a $172.5 million bond issue in Boise to a $90,000 supplemental levy in West Side, Tuesday was almost a clean sweep for Idaho schools.
Nearly every bond issue or school levy on the ballot received a thumbs-up from voters. Many passed with landslide support of 70 percent or more — the Boise bond issue, for example, sailed through with 86 percent backing.
The bottom line: Voters passed $695 million in ballot measures. Many do not constitute tax increases, however, and instead keep existing taxes on the books.
Vallivue School District was the lone outlier Tuesday. The rapidly growing Canyon County district pursued a $20 million plant facilities levy for building upkeep. The measure fell short of the two-thirds threshold for passage.
Here’s the complete rundown from the 46 districts that ran ballot measures Tuesday:
Boise: On a big school election night, Boise rolled to a big win at the polls. A $172.5 million bond issue received an 86 percent landslide, easily clearing the two-thirds supermajority threshold.
All told, 22,084 voters supported the bond issue; 3,595 voters opposed it.
Boise plans to use the money on 22 capital projects — including rebuilding six elementary schools, in whole or in part, and building a new elementary school in the growing Harris Ranch section of East Boise. The district’s Dennis Professional Technical Education Center would also get an expansion. The bond issue would cover the bulk of Boise’s facilities master plan, which has a $217 million sticker price.
West Ada: A 10-year, $160 million plant facilities levy passed with 61 percent support. The state’s largest district plans to use the renewed levy on building maintenance and upkeep, but also to keep up with growth. Over the past decade, West Ada has spent about $6 million on portable classroom buildings.
Tuesday’s levy received 8,352 yes votes; 5,042 voters opposed it. The levy replaces a 10-year, $200 million levy passed in 2007.
Coeur d’Alene: In a Tuesday night sweep, a $35.5 million bond issue received 77 percent, and a two-year, $32 million supplemental levy passed with 79 percent support.
The bond issue will go toward a new elementary school, new classrooms at the district’s two high schools and other projects.
The supplemental levy — which needed only a simple majority to pass — will cover everything from classroom staff to new textbooks to extracurricular activities.
Lewiston: The district finally has a path forward to replace a high school that opened in 1928, as a $59.8 million bond issue passed with a 75 percent majority. After studying renovation and expansion options, Lewiston opted to replace the old school. The district says 14 of the current high school’s classrooms are 680 square feet; the standard for a high school classroom is 850 square feet. The building plan also includes a new career-technical center.
Kuna: The suburban district won twice Tuesday, as a $40 million bond issue and a two-year, $5 million supplemental levy both passed with 67 percent support.
A new high school tops Kuna’s wish list for the bond issue. The district also hopes to add eight classrooms at two elementary schools, and finish a variety of renovation projects.
The district plans to use the supplemental levy to update curriculum for the first time in a decade, starting with a math rewrite. Kuna did not collect a supplemental levy in 2016-17.
Lakeland: Voters replaced a pair of levies that expire this year. A two-year, $17.98 million supplemental levy passed with 66 percent support, and a five-year, $5.73 million plant facilities levy passed with 68 percent backing.
Vallivue: A 10-year, $20 million plant facilities levy received 61 percent support, but fell short of the needed two-thirds supermajority needed for passage. The Canyon County district had hoped to put the money towards repairs and upkeep and technology infrastructure. Vallivue has had a plant facilities levy on the books since 1987.
Pocatello-Chubbuck: East Idaho’s largest school district extended a two-year, $18.5 million supplemental levy with 78 percent support. The district hopes to used the money to hire teachers and paraprofessionals, maintain extracurricular and classroom programs and offset rising employee insurance costs.
Lake Pend Oreille: A two-year, $17 million supplemental levy passed with 64 percent support. The majority of the money will go to maintain 165 staff positions, or about 26 percent of the district’s work force.
American Falls: After a failed attempt last year, the district passed a bond issue to build an elementary school and alleviate heavy overcrowding at the a current elementary school. The $8.95 million measure passed with a 69 percent majority. A two-year, $4.92 million supplemental levy passed with a 77 percent majority.
Idaho Falls: A two-year, $13.6 million supplemental levy passed with 84 percent support. The district hopes to use the money to supplement state funding for teachers, staff and programs. This $6.8 million-a-year levy has been on the books since 2003-04.
Marsing: A $13.5 million bond issue cleared the supermajority threshold with 74 percent support. The district’s top priority is a new middle school. Some money would also go toward a new gym and library at the high school, and other building projects.
Bonneville: A two-year, $11.6 million supplemental levy passed with 76 percent support. The district plans to use to the money to offset the additional costs associated with a new 1,600-student high school, now under construction.
Blackfoot: A 10-year, $6 million plant facilities levy and a two-year, $4.3 million supplemental levy both passed with 75 percent support. The district plans to use plant facilities levy money to upgrade areas of its high school and resurface a high school track. The district hopes to focus supplemental dollars on teacher salaries and benefits and classroom upgrades.
Post Falls: A two-year, $9.91 million supplemental levy passed with 75 percent support. The district plans to use this levy to update curriculum and upgrade classroom technology.
Twin Falls: A two-year, $8.5 million supplemental levy passed with 68 percent support. The levy would be used to cover staff positions, training, classroom materials and extracurricular activities.
West Bonner County: Voters extended a two-year, $6 million supplemental levy with 58 percent support. The district says the money would help cover core academic subjects and extracurricular programs, technology and the district’s school resource officer.
Payette: Voters said yes to to levies. A 10-year, $4.95 million plant facilities levy received 73 percent support. A two-year, $800,000 supplemental levy passed with 74 percent backing. The plant facilities money will be used to purchase equipment and make building improvements. The supplemental levy money will go toward choir and physical education programs, replacing computer servers and teacher training.
Boundary County: Voters extended a two-year, $4.8 million supplemental levy with 69 percent support. The district’s to-do list includes building upgrades and projects to make its schools safer, as well as technology and classroom materials.
St. Maries: A two-year, $4.14 million supplemental levy was renewed with 62 percent support, the St. Maries Gazette Record reported. The district plans to use the money in several areas — including new textbooks and curriculum materials, replacing an aging school bus and upgrading classroom technology.
Fremont County: Voters extended a two-year, $3 million supplemental levy with 82 percent support. The district hopes to put the levy into teacher retention, building security, textbooks, technology and musical instruments.
Mountain View: Voters extended a one-year, $2.66 million supplemental levy with a slim 52 percent majority.
Potlatch: A one-year, $1.9 million supplemental levy passed — narrowly. It received 51 percent support.
Kootenai: A two-year, $1.5 million supplemental levy passed with 76 percent support. The levy would go towards building maintenance, technology and classroom learning supplies.
Bear Lake County: A two-year, $1.5 million supplemental levy passed with 74 percent support. This represents a reduction from the 2016-17 levy of $800,000.
Snake River: A two-year, $1.5 million supplemental levy passed with 74 percent support.
Gooding: A two-year, $1.3 million supplemental levy passed with 75 percent support.
Ririe: A five-year, $825,000 bond issue passed with 77 percent support. The district says its maintenance funds are drying up, and plans to use the bond issue to complete a list of maintenance projects. A two-year, $440,000 supplemental levy garnered 76 percent support.
Plummer-Worley: Voters extended a two-year, $1.1 million supplemental levy with 71 percent support.
Bruneau-Grand View: A two-year, $1 million supplemental levy passed with 53 percent support.
Cascade: Voters extended a two-year, $1 million supplemental levy with 74 percent support.
Genesee: A one-year, $935,000 supplemental levy passed with 78 percent support.
Kendrick: A one-year, $860,000 supplemental levy passed with 72 percent support.
Challis: Voters extended a two-year, $800,000 supplemental levy with 77 percent support.
Highland: Voters extended a one-year, $499,000 supplemental levy with 71 percent support. A five-year, $250,000 plant facilities levy passed with 75 percent support.
Camas County: Voters extended a two-year, $600,000 supplemental levy, the Twin Falls Times-News reported Wednesday.
Horseshoe Bend: A $600,000 supplemental levy received a two-year extension, with 68 percent support.
Fruitland: A two-year, $590,000 supplemental levy passed with 73 percent approval.
Hansen: Voters extended a two-year, $580,000 supplemental levy with 67 percent support.
Grace: A one-year, $300,000 supplemental levy was renewed, and voters also passed a one-year, $150,000 plant facilities reserve fund levy. Both received majorities of more than 70 percent.
Butte County: A pair of levies passed Tuesday. A two-year, $320,000 supplemental levy was renewed with 80 percent support. A two-year, $130,000 plant facilities levy passed with 82 percent support.
West Side: A one-year, 90,000 supplemental levy, which has been on the books since 2006-07, passed with nearly 90 percent support.
Idaho Education News reporter Devin Bodkin contributed to this report.