Reclaim Idaho, the grassroots organization responsible for putting Medicaid expansion on the November 2018 ballot, has filed a new initiative to keep Idaho public school teachers in-state, create competitive K-12 classroom and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, and take pressure off property tax payers who continue to float costly school levies on a regular basis. The “Invest in Idaho” initiative is designed to generate more than $170 million in investments in Idaho’s K-12 public schools. 

“The politicians in Boise give away our tax dollars to out-of-state interests while Idaho teachers are forced to pay for their own supplies. Idaho’s children find themselves at a competitive disadvantage, and property tax payers in rural districts shoulder an unfair tax burden,” said Reclaim Idaho Executive Director Rebecca Schroeder. “We want to level the playing field for all Idahoans so that every boy and girl, no matter where they live, have a fair shot at success in this state.”

The impact of Idaho’s generation-long failure to invest in education has created a crisis in the state that is costing Idahoans hundreds of millions of dollars a year. A report by the STEM Action Center to the 2019 Idaho State legislature stated that Idahoans left more than 6,300 STEM-related jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) on the table in 2018, resulting in $412 million in unpaid wages. Many of those jobs require just post-high school CTE skills, professional certificates or community college training.

“We want those dollars to go into the pockets of working Idahoans. We can’t do that until we strengthen our K-12 system and give students the skills to go on after high school,” said Reclaim Idaho Co-Founder Luke Mayville. “Idaho’s politicians are putting all of us at risk by driving our teachers and paychecks out-of-state because they refuse to invest in our schools. They also create uncertainty for Idaho taxpayers who find themselves voting on school levies almost every year.”

Reclaim Idaho’s initiative will call for investments from Idaho’s richest individuals and corporations – many of which come from out-of-state. This is designed to level the playing field for middle-class Idahoans, who pay a larger share of their income in taxes than Idaho’s wealthy. Under the proposed initiative, tax rates over a quarter-million dollars for individuals and a half-million for married couples would increase by three percentage points. The corporate rate (for in-state and out-of-state entities) would be restored to 8-percent - the rate that existed from 1987 to 2000. These reforms would impact fewer than 5-percent of all Idahoans.

A report by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy found that politicians’ recent tax giveaways mostly benefited out-of-state shareholders, with “81 percent flowing outside of our borders and only 19 percent going to Idaho households that own stakes in companies that pay Idaho corporate income taxes.”

Reclaim Idaho’s initiative is also designed to reduce the need for burdensome property-tax levies. Idaho property taxpayers now pay over $200 million annually in local levies—over three times what they paid in 2004.

The decision by Idaho’s politicians to cut investments in education makes Idaho students less competitive and hurts Idaho’s economy. Research points to the critical role of qualified teachers in student success. Idaho continues to lag far behind neighboring states when it comes to recruiting and retaining qualified teachers.

A recent report by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy found that Idaho’s commitment to K-12 education, measured as a percentage of total income, has declined drastically in recent decades: “The share of aggregate personal income dedicated to public schools is three-quarters of what it was nearly 40 years ago.”