Ask any politician in the state what issue matters most to them and they will tell you education. It’s in all of their speeches, on all of their websites, on all of the literature they stick in your doors. They’ve been saying it for years.

By now, you must know they don’t mean it.

Last year, Idaho left more than 6,300 STEM-related jobs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) unfilled. That resulted in $412,000,000 in unpaid wages that should have gone into the pockets of Idahoans. But they didn’t.

Many of those jobs could have been filled by people with post-high school CTE training or just a two-year degree. The average STEM job pays twice as much as the average wage in Idaho. These are wages Idahoans can use to support a family, buy a home and pursue the American dream.

Idaho teachers continue to flee to bordering states that pay competitive wages and value the skills they bring to the classroom. Idaho’s politicians, on the other hand, continue to look the other way.

Reclaim Idaho decided enough is enough. That’s why we are launching the Invest in Idaho initiative—a ballot initiative designed to bring dollars back to Idaho so we can finally invest in a skilled workforce, keep Idaho teachers in Idaho and set our state on a path to a prosperous future.

To be fair, we do not discount recent efforts to create a “career ladder” that makes Idaho slightly more competitive for new educators. We are encouraged by Gov. Little’s support for early childhood literacy and his commitment to raising salaries for starting teachers. These are laudable steps.

However, survey after survey shows that Idaho families are demanding more for their children and their communities when it comes to public education. It’s not just families. Businesses consistently crave a skilled workforce in Idaho, which the politicians refuse to deal with. Idaho’s own Workforce Development Task Force stated in 2017, “If an adequate workforce is not available, businesses will go elsewhere to create new, high-quality jobs, damaging every local economy.”

The Invest in Idaho initiative is designed to invest in our teachers, our children and Idaho’s future. Our initiative will bring investments back to Idaho from out-of-state corporations that benefitted from the 2017 tax giveaway. It will also call on Idaho’s richest people—many of whom own businesses—to invest in the skilled workforce Idaho has lacked for so many years.

These investments will benefit every Idahoan. It won’t matter where they live, how much money they earn or what their station in life is. This initiative will help put millions of dollars back in the pockets of working Idahoans who want to get ahead, support their families and make Idaho stronger.

We know the politicians won’t do it. Now it’s up to the people of Idaho.

We Idahoans are an independent and strong-willed people. This initiative is exactly what we’ve been demanding for a generation. The next time a politician tells us they value education and a skilled Idaho workforce, ask them what they’ve done to keep our best teachers in Idaho classrooms or to give our students the skills they need to succeed. Chances are, they won’t have an answer.

Fortunately, we do.

Visit today, and learn more about Idaho teachers, Idaho’s children and Idaho’s future.

Rebecca Schroeder is executive director of Reclaim Idaho.

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