K-12 education initiative confirmed for November ballot

Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville spoke outside the Idaho Statehouse on July 6, 2022, just before the group submitted the final petitions to the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office on the Quality Education Act. (Photo by Ruth Brown)

By Ruth Brown, Idaho Reports

An Idaho voter initiative will make the November ballot, after advocacy group Reclaim Idaho collected thousands of signatures and the Secretary of State’s Office approved it.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office made the announcement Friday evening, after county clerks verified the more than 100,000 collected signatures and Reclaim Idaho submitted them to the state for final review.

The Secretary of State’s Office certified that the initiative exceeded the 64,945 signature threshold for this election cycle and qualified in at least 19 legislative districts.

In a Friday press release, Reclaim Idaho said their initiative will appear on the ballot as “Proposition 1” and announced a statewide door-knocking campaign.

The initiative, dubbed the “Quality Education Act,” would raise an estimated $323 million annually for public K-12 programs and support better pay for teachers and support staff if approved by a majority of voters. 

“We worked our hearts out because we know the Quality Education Act will keep more of our best teachers in the classroom and improve the lives of our kids,” Bonner County volunteer co-leader Linda Larson said in the press release.

The initiative would raise Idaho’s corporate tax rate to 8%. That boost would come after lawmakers lowered it to 6% earlier this year.

Additionally, people earning more than $250,000 a year 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 their income over $500,000. Should the initiative pass, it would not raise taxes for anyone making less than $250,000 a year. 

The funding proposal has received vocal support from organizations including the Idaho Education Association.

It comes in the same year that Idaho was again ranked last in per-pupil K-12 spending by the National Education Association in its annual Ranking and Estimates Report for 2020-2021. The same report put Idaho’s average teacher salary at 45th in the nation. 

Reclaim Idaho’s history

Reclaim Idaho has a track record of running voter initiatives for the ballot. In 2018, the group successfully placed a Medicaid expansion initiative on the ballot, receiving support from 61% of voters.

The Idaho Legislature in 2021 passed a bill that would have made it harder for citizens to get an initiative on the ballot. It would have required groups to get signatures from 6% of registered voters in all 35 legislative districts, rather than 18 districts. Supporters said it would have given rural areas a voice, while opponents of the bill argued it would have made the initiative process nearly impossible.

Reclaim Idaho sued and in August of 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court deemed the bill unconstitutional.

In that case, the litigation resulted in $151,866 in legal fees, which the state was ordered to pay.

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