Help schools answer key funding questions

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If you’ve been waiting to fill out the Coeur d’Alene School District’s important survey, procrastinate no more.

The deadline is end of day tomorrow.

Here’s the link: www.cdaschools.org/levysurvey

The survey results will help the district decide how it will go about seeking support from taxpayers in the years ahead. One of the issues deals with the maintenance and operations levy, which is up for public vote next March. The district wants patrons to consider increasing the amount of the last levy, $16 million, to $20 million, with the additional money providing mental health programs and support; security enhancements; teacher and staff training; and improving pay for teachers and other staff in the district. The last levy, by the way, passed with almost 80 percent approval.

Also sought are patrons’ opinions on making the two-year levy requests an automatic approval into perpetuity. That’s a big question that deserves serious input from taxpayers.

Back in 2006, under the leadership of then-Gov. Jim Risch, a special session of the Idaho Legislature gave taxpayers a “break” by slashing $260 million from property taxes to schools. The state was flush at the time, but when the recession struck and the state brought in less money, public education took a hit whose pain continues to be felt. School districts have had to go to taxpayers every two years to make up about a large percentage of most operations budgets (24 percent in Coeur d’Alene).

The Press editorialized against what it perceived as a tax shift back then and we think history has proved the point. Today’s maintenance and operations levies comprise funding that’s needed for basic school expenses, not luxuries. Judging by the avid public support locally for these levies, many other citizens feel the same way. Alas, in poorer districts, levies either fail or they aren’t even sought, which illustrates the most damaging side of the funding gulf created by the tax shift.

We’ve heard from some people who like the idea that districts have to go to the voters every two years for funding, creating a powerful mechanism where the educators and administrators can be indirectly evaluated. If you don’t think your schools are doing a good job, these patrons say, your “no” vote on a levy can make a dramatic statement. Too dramatic, in our opinion, because if levies fail, people are going to lose jobs and the quality of local education will suffer considerably. A better approach than holding levies hostage is to recruit and elect the best school board members possible, communicate with them and hold them accountable.

What do you think? If you’re in District 271, please take a few minutes on the school survey and share your thoughts. We have a lot of faith that school board members will seriously consider what you have to say.

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