Two education funding bills die in committee

House Bill 595 would have set aside money for districts based on performance criteria. House Bill 447 outlined a school choice tax credit and grant program.

BOISE, Idaho — Like past legislative sessions, lawmakers are putting a big focus on Idaho schools. However, two education funding bills died in committee hearings Tuesday. 

House Bill 595, which passed the House last week, would have set aside $40 million for districts with high math performances and career readiness, similar to how the state allocates money for literacy. 

Debbie Critchfield, Superintendent of Public Instruction, called the Education Committee’s decision to hold the bill “disappointing.” 

“It was disappointing to see the majority of an education committee not support a bill that promoted student outcomes. Like policymakers in Texas, Arizona, Tennessee and other conservative states, we pursued this legislation as a direct response to those who insist that we must rethink the way we fund our public schools. It was budget-neutral, meaning there was no new spending. So, it was puzzling to see a vote against our public school districts and charters without explanation,” according to a statement sent to KTVB. 

Everyone who testified during Tuesday’s committee hearing supported the bill, including several school employees. One community member liked the bill because it “rewarded good behavior.”

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted 10-7 to hold HB 447 in committee on Tuesday, effectively killing the bill. Qualified families would have gotten up to $5,000 back per child on their state taxes. The bill also outlined a grant program to help subsidize private school tuition for low-income families. 

The legislation was capped at $50 million. 

“If you want to send your kids anywhere, you should have the right,” Parent Robbie Hart said. “I’m never going to give up what it takes to make sure my kids get the education they need and what is beneficial for him.” 

There are still several weeks left in the legislative session, meaning lawmakers could revise and introduce new versions of the school funding bills. 

On Wednesday, the Senate State Affairs Committee will hear a different version of a bill allowing school employees and volunteers with an enhanced carry license to have a gun at school. 

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