Wednesday, April 21, 2021
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Spending more money doesn’t make schools better

by BOB SHILLINGSTAD/Guest Opinion
| April 3, 2021 1:00 AM

The column in the March 27 paper from the chair of the Kootenai County Democratic Party Central Committee was so egregious it requires a rational, fact-based response. Facts, not personal attacks.

He attacks the per-pupil spending of Idaho of $6,447 and places us 50th. Actually we are slightly better than Utah at $7,448. Our spending or performance is hardly a fair comparison to states with abysmal education records, California is nearly double Idaho in spending and a basket case is a good example. Now Wyoming, at $16,537, is in the top 10 of spending and is a good comparison to Idaho and Utah. How does Wyoming compare on test scores, post high school success and other measures. Idaho and Utah will beat them more times than not. Money is hardly the only measure of success and especially when you look at charter schools in Idaho that operate only on state monies and no levies. Look back over the last dozen years at National Merit Semifinalists in Kootenai County — by far most of them came out of Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy.

Speaking of lotteries, Mr. Koch doesn’t tell the whole story. Schools receive about 25% of lottery sales which was about $17 million last year. Not a major portion of the budget. Many have questioned the ethics of funding education from a gambling scheme. The decision to drop the lottery after it was announced it was going global was bi-partisan for many reasons. Democrat legislator Chris Mathias stated, “My concern is the delegation of authority, and essentially turning over our sovereignty to this Multi-State Lottery Association," he said. "I think we should be concerned that they could be persuaded, they could be lobbied heavily by countries that we are not particularly friendly with.”

The rejection of the $6 million grant for early childhood education, according to Mr. Koch, is that we are uneducated rubes that don’t appreciate schools and hate education. The truth is that it was really a coalition of female legislators that fought this grant sponsored by the Association for the Education of Young Children. They would have administered this program of social justice ideology according to Rep. Priscilla Giddings.

Finally Mr. Koch gets down to the nitty gritty of his complaints. We should not hold elections on a day when there is a large turnout, like a general or primary election. Why, you might ask, since this would save tax money by reducing the expense of another election? Well, Mr. Koch gives us the clear answer, “partisan candidates can expect to win seats on school boards.” What is a partisan candidate? It would be, in Mr. Koch’s own words, “their adherence to Idaho Republican Platform and to “Constitutional and Traditional values.” If you are scratching your head right now and wondering if someone believes in these values and runs as a citizen for the school board what is wrong with that? Mr. Koch explains of the local population, “meaning they oppose diversity and human rights.” Although there is not a definition of “diversity and human rights” we have to assume they are mutually exclusive.

Rather than get any deeper into a reasoned discussion of these values and 250 years of American government there is a quick pivot in the arguments that is the the best weapon that leftists wield. If you can’t discuss issues, attack character with innuendos and falsehoods. Mr. Koch follows that by accusing the NIC board chairman of all kinds of unproven accusations. Some border on the ridiculous: “the chairman is a non-educator.” Then he says the board chairman is “credibly accused of sexual harassment and bullying anyone standing in the way of his political agenda.” Not charged, not convicted, but anonymously “accused.” This is beyond a difference of policy but is going to new depths of attack in a column. He says the only way we can improve is to “remain free of political influence.” Interpretation, that would be only their political influence.

We need competition, give the parents a voucher for $7,448 and let them decide where their children attend school. Private schools and the Lakeland School District had schools open all last year and apparently, by following the science, all worked well. If parents like private schools or home schooling, let them choose. if they like the teaching they are getting over Zoom, let them choose that instead. But overall let us be willing to have a free and civil exchange of ideas about policy. We don’t dive into the gutter to attack someone that disagrees.

I promised to stay civil in this rebuttal. When they have their next meeting in the back booth of a local restaurant we would gladly join the conversation. They are likewise invited to the meetings we have at local banquet events. Exchange of ideas and competition is needed now more than ever — not canceling or attacks.

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Bob Shillingstad is a Hayden resident.