GRANGEVILLE – “It’s time for a statewide citizen movement around education,” Rebecca Schroeder told a room of 15 at the Soltman Center Thursday night, Sept. 19.
Schroeder, the Reclaim Idaho executive director, and two representatives were in town to speak about Invest in Idaho.
“We’ve seen the crisis of underfunded public education for years, and now we’re stepping up to do something about it,” she said.
Reclaim Idaho is the grassroots organization that brought Medicaid expansion to the ballot last year. In the end, it helped to extend healthcare to more than 10,000 Idahoans.
Schroeder grew up in Kooskia and graduated from Clearwater Valley High School in 1996. She and her family now live in Coeur d’Alene.
“I have a front row seat to the mass exodus of Idaho teachers to Washington. Idaho doesn’t have a teacher shortage,” she explained, but rather the unfairness of low wages and additional cuts that drive Idaho’s teachers out of state.
The Invest in Idaho ballot initiative campaign seeks to invest $170 million in K-12 education. It would restore Idaho corporate tax rate to 8 percent and increase the marginal tax rate on those making more than $250,000 per year.
“All new revenue will be deposited in a Quality Education Fund to meet the most urgent needs of our students across the state,” Schroeder said. “This is not to replace current state funding – it’s in addition to what the state appropriates.”
Schroeder said the legislature has given away tax funding to out-of-state interests.
“We need to take that money back and put it into our kids, teachers and education,” she stated.
Schroeder admitted it will be a “Herculean task” to obtain the 55,057 signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot.
“But if you’re holding your breath for legislators to act – well, don’t. I just believe it’s up to us,” she said.
Idaho has left more than 6,300 STEM jobs unfilled, she said.
“That’s $412 million in unpaid wages to Idahoans,” she emphasized. “Educating a skilled workforce for the future is vital.”
The ballot initiative was filed Sept. 6 with the Idaho Secretary of State and is now being reviewed. The group hopes to have this back by mid-October and then start the signature-gathering process.