December 23, 2022 7:00am

School choice and holiday shopping

Strong support for local businesses; Skepticism about school choice options

Photo of Melissa Davlin
Boise, ID Correspondent

With an almost 50 percent turnover in the Idaho Legislature, there are a lot of unknowns as we head into the 2023 legislative session, which kicks off with the Jan. 9th State of the State address. But one topic will surely come up: Proposals to use public education dollars to help families pay for private or homeschool options.

School choice supporters maintain that more options will increase the quality of education across the board, including for students at public schools, and will give families the flexibility to find schooling options that are the best fits for their children. Skeptics are concerned that no matter what form the proposals take, they will siphon dollars away from public schools. And the debates are already heating up.

"As school choice supporters, we are not out to dismantle public schools," wrote Sen. Lori Den Hartog and Rep. Wendy Horman in a joint op-ed published at Idaho Education News. "As parents we want the best for our children, and that means options."

But former Madison School District Superintendent Geoff Thomas disagreed in another Idaho Education News op-ed.

"A voucher is a set amount of tax dollars provided to parents to use how they see fit for their child’s education," he wrote. "Thus, vouchers are essentially welfare for the rich as most middle class and working poor parents, even with voucher money, simply cannot afford to send their children to costly private or parochial schools."

Adding intrigue: At the September special session, lawmakers approved Gov. Brad Little's proposal to set aside $330 million for K-12 education, with the understanding that the 2023 Legislature would work out the details.

We asked Treasure Valley Power Poll members how they felt about using public taxpayer money for alternative school options. Of those who responded, 62 percent said they did not support the idea, while 12 percent said yes. Another 24 percent said it would depend on the proposal, while while 3 percent said they weren't sure.

"Regarding the education question, I think the focus should be on allowing school districts to collect impact fees and surplus dollars to retire, or at least pay down, existing school bonds and levies before we consider proposals to allow for the funding of private or homeschool education," wrote former Star City Council Member Michael Keyes.

Last week, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare held a press briefing to caution Idahoans about rising cases of influenza, RSV, and COVID-19, and the influx of patients threatening to overwhelm hospitals across the state and the northwest. The surge is especially affecting pediatric wards, as young children are more severely affected by RSV than older patients.

The situation has prompted early discussions of preparing for return to crisis standards of care, and while IDHW Director Dave Jeppesen says he hopes the state can avoid the move, officials are concerned about a post-holiday increase in cases.

We asked Treasure Valley Power Poll members if they have taken extra precautions against the viruses after the warnings from health professionals. The results were fairly evenly split, with 53 percent saying yes, and 47 percent saying no.

There's a lot going on in the world, but we hope you have found time for some holiday cheer.

But even with so much to celebrate, there are still decisions to make. Do you stick with local businesses? Do you go for convenience and hit "Buy now?" How about cost, especially with inflation?

We asked Treasure Valley Power Poll members what they prioritize while holiday shopping. Forty one percent said they prioritize supporting small or local businesses, while 33 percent said cost. Twenty six percent said other.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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