The Mountain States Policy Center (MSPC), which bills itself as a “free-market-oriented think tank,” has been promoting what it calls a “school choice” plan. The words conjure up visions of parents being offered a variety of school options from which they can pick and choose. Actually, the options are the same ones that are presently available to parents–public, private and parochial. The only change with MSPC’s plan is that all options would be paid for with dollars extracted from Idaho taxpayers. It is, in essence, a tax-and-spend proposal that would force taxpayers to finance private and religious schooling, in addition to paying for the public education system.

If implemented, the MSPC plan could well provoke a taxpayer revolt, presuming that the State finally begins financing the public school system in the manner required by the Idaho Constitution. Idaho has long been in violation of the constitutional mandate to adequately fund its public schools. It has also failed to shoulder its legal obligation to pay for new school buildings and maintenance of existing facilities, forcing local school districts to finance those heavy costs with property taxes.

Governor Brad Little has proposed a substantial increase in public school funding and the Legislature is finally looking at ways to provide state funding for construction and maintenance of school buildings. It will be very expensive to fund both of those essential constitutional mandates. If we do, can we really afford to also start paying for private and religious schooling with taxpayer dollars? If we don’t, the State may well find itself in court, defending a school funding lawsuit.

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