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OPINION: Idaho Freedom Foundation misinforms about the education initiative

by JIM JONES/Special to The Press
| August 19, 2022 1:00 AM

The ill-named Idaho Freedom Foundation, which essentially owns and operates the extremist branch of today’s Republican Party, wants to destroy the Gem State’s public school system. As recent as Aug. 8, IFF President Wayne Hoffman repeated his demand for the state to get out of the “education business.” That seems to be a tall order since the Idaho Constitution requires the Legislature to “maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

Hoffman claims our “school system is largely transforming into an indoctrination camp built not to teach students reading, writing, and arithmetic, but rather a center teaching them rioting, resistance, and race war.” It seems like Hoffman desperately needs a crash course on what dedicated teachers across Idaho are doing to educate our kids with the insufficient resources they receive from the Legislature.

Rather than seeking a constitutional amendment to do away with the public school system, Hoffman prefers to subvert the Constitution by hammering public schools at every turn. He urges his loyal minions in the Legislature to starve public schools of necessary funding. He promotes the use of State funds for private and religious schools, which would further impoverish public schools. He demeans teachers, falsely claiming they are indoctrinating children with “dangerous anti-white ideology.” No wonder so many teachers are leaving the profession they love.

Idaho’s public school system is overseen by elected school boards and operated by teachers and administrators who live in local communities. It is a contemptible lie to claim they are trying to subvert local values, instead of doing their level best to give our kids a decent education.

Hoffman claims our schools “will churn out a generation of idiots more easily controlled and manipulated by sleazy politicians, media pundits, and governmental bureaucrats.” It seems to me that he is describing what Idaho education would look like under IFF’s control. Idaho rose to greatness because of the public school system, which was one of the State’s highest priorities upon achieving statehood in 1890. It can maintain that greatness, if the Legislature will honor its constitutional duty to adequately fund it.

IFF’S latest anti-education ploy is to spread misinformation about the education funding initiative that will come up for a vote in the November election. The Quality Education Initiative will raise an additional $323.5 million for Idaho schools, giving the voters an opportunity to do what the Legislature has failed to do for many years–properly fund our schools. Those funds would come from raising the corporate tax rate back to 8%, where it was from 1987 to 2000. The initiative would also create a new top income bracket for individuals earning over $250,000 a year ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) with just the earnings over those levels being taxed at 10.925%. Other tax brackets would be unchanged.

IFF wrongly claims the initiative “would hike taxes on every single Idahoan, including the poor and middle-class families and small businesses.” Without bothering to do its own analysis, IFF latched onto misinformed claims of an out-of-state tax group to support its opposition to the initiative. Long-time reporter Betsy Russell performed an in-depth review of the IFF claims and found them to be unfounded. Her informed conclusions are nicely summed up by the title of her report “CLAIMS UNFOUNDED: Why school funding initiative wouldn’t have higher-than-advertised price tag.”

Russell analyzes and evaluates IFF’s claims with the help of Idaho’s foremost legislative drafting expert, Mike Nugent, the Legislature’s chief bill drafter for 26 years before his 2018 retirement. I was in awe of Nugent’s capabilities during my tenure as Attorney General in the 1980s and during my 12 years on the Supreme Court. He knows what he is talking about, whereas the out-of-state tax group and IFF do not. The initiative will do what its proponent, Reclaim Idaho, says it will do, not what IFF claims.


Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General and 12 years as a justice on the Idaho Supreme Court. He is currently a regular contributor to The Hill online news.

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