By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports
Advocacy group Reclaim Idaho dropped off the final signatures needed Monday for the education initiative voters might see this year.
Reclaim Idaho supporters and co-founder Luke Mayville gathered outside the Ada County Elections Office to submit the last of the petition signatures.
“The people of Idaho disagree about a whole lot of things, but there is at least one thing that the vast majority of Idahoans agree on,” Mayville said. “Every Idaho child deserves a quality education and today we are giving the voters of Idaho a chance to give our kids something much closer to the quality education they deserve.”
The ballot initiative, dubbed the Quality Education Act, would raise an estimated $323 million annually to support K-12th grade education in Idaho, should it go into effect.
Should the initiative pass, it would not raise taxes for anyone making less than $250,000 a year. Individuals earning more than $250,000 would pay a new 4.5% tax rate, but only on the income they earn over that threshold. Married couples would pay new taxes only on the income they earn that’s more than $500,000.
The initiative would also increase the corporate tax rate to 8%, after lawmakers lowered it to 6% earlier this year.
Idaho currently ranks last in the country for the amount of funding the state allocates per student per year. The Idaho Education Association recently endorsed the initiative.
“Today we are giving the voters of Idaho a chance to do something,” Mayville said. “We are giving the voters of Idaho a chance to make our teacher salaries more competitive with the salaries of neighboring states. We’re giving the voters of Idaho a chance to secure funding for urgent priorities like programs in welding, like programs in carpentry and the types of things that give our kids a chance to make a living.”
Gathering signatures involved the support of more than 600 volunteers, Mayville said.
To get an initiative on the ballot, Reclaim Idaho is required to collect nearly 65,000 valid signatures from at least 6% of voters in 18 legislative districts. The group said Monday it had collected 97,000 signatures and expect at least 70,000 will be counted as valid. Their signatures are from 6% of voters in 20 legislative districts – more than the state requirement.
Mayville said he’s confident they will have enough valid signatures to move forward.
“We have worked very hard to set up an internal tracking system where along the way we determine an estimate of how many signatures are valid,” Mayville said.
He says they estimated that about 73% of signatures gathered are valid.
A “valid” signature means the person who signed the petition is a registered voter, their signature is legible, and the address on the petition matches the address listed with their voter registration.
The county clerks have 60 days to review the signatures and then the petition heads to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office. If approved, the initiative will be on the November ballot.
Mayville said Reclaim Idaho will mount a campaign encouraging and educating voters on what the Quality Education Act would do if approved.
History of Success
Reclaim Idaho has seen success in the past. In 2018, the group successfully got a Medicaid expansion bill on the ballot, receiving majority voter support.
In 2021, after Medicaid expansion passed, the Idaho Legislature passed a restrictive ballot initiative bill requiring initiatives to qualify in all legislative districts to make the ballot. Reclaim Idaho then asked the court to strike down Senate Bill 1110. In August of 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court deemed the bill unconstitutional.
In that case, the litigation racked up a tab of $151,866 in legal fees, which the state was ordered to pay by the Supreme Court.
According to the Idaho Secretary of State’s campaign finance portal, as of May 2 Reclaim Idaho’s PAC (Political Action Committee) received 4,832 donations, raising more than $564,000 in support since 2020. The majority of reported donations are small donations from individuals, rather than large donations from companies or other PACs.
Idaho Reports sat down with Mayville in June for the podcast to discuss the Quality Education Act and some of its challenges.