A $5-million difference in education funding has touched off a bitter partisan dispute between Idaho’s Democratic Governor and Republican legislative leaders.
Accusing each other of using education funding to fuel an election- year political battle, Gov. Cecil D. Andrus and the chiefs of the House and Senate faced off in statewide television addresses last week.
The conflict had broken into the open on March 6, when the Republican-majority House approved an appropriations bill cutting Governor Andrus’s proposed $502-million education budget by $5 million.
The measure passed on a 52-to-30 vote in which 4 of the 56 House Republicans joined the 26 Democrats present in opposing the action.
On the same day that it approved the fiscal 1993 budget, the House passed a bill granting schools the missing $5 million in funding if the state discovers it has surplus revenues at the end of the year.
Supporters of the measure conceded, however, that the potential additional aid would be too late for districts to depend on in budgeting for the 1992-93 school year.
Electoral Losses Threatened
The following Monday, the Governor voiced his opposition to the bill in a televised speech. His address was followed by a rebuttal from President Pro Tem of the Senate Michael D. Crapo and Speaker of the House Tom Boyd.
Mr. Andrus has charged that House Republicans have “turned their backs on the children.’' Cuts in state aid to schools, he contends, would only shift the burden of education financing to local property taxes.
Mr. Andrus also has warned the G.O.P. that its stand will cost it legislative seats in the November elections. Even a net loss of one seat could be important, since the Senate is currently evenly split, 21 to 21, between Democrats and Republicans.
In 1988, Republicans lost three seats after earlier approving a budget $6 million lower than the Governor’s budget. In addition, local property taxes were raised $8.5 million to compensate for the reductions.
But Mr. Crapo and other Republicans have retorted by arguing that the Governor is being unrealistic both about the state’s economic outlook and about the degree of public support for funding education.
Mr. Andrus’s budget assumes that state revenues will be $13.5 million higher than the legislature’s estimates.
Meanwhile, the Idaho Education Association bought radio time for five Senate Democrats, who urged Idahoans to call their legislators to voice support for the Governor’s budget.
The I.E.A. had viewed the Governor’s budget as inadequate and “quite a bit less ... than we originally asked the legislature to appropriate,’' said Gayle Moore, a spokesman for the union. “But given the choice between what the legislature was inclined to do versus what the Governor was proposing, we easily came out on the Governor’s side.’'
Not the Final Word
In an interview, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jerry L. Evans warned that the House bill would bring education reform in Idaho to a “screeching halt.’'
A number of education-reform projects have already been launched in Idaho. Thirteen schools were designated “Schools of the Future’’ last December, and the state has enlisted former Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell as a consultant to its “Schools 2000'’ education-reform committee.
But in the $497-million allotment approved by the House, there are “zero dollars’’ set aside for current or future reform projects, according to Senator John D. Hansen, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and one of three Republicans on the panel who have voiced public support for the Governor’s budget.
Mr. Evans said he has not given up hope, and believes it is fairly likely the Senate will ultimately support the Governor’s budget package. “Don’t consider this the final word,’' he said.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 1992 edition of Education Week as School-Funding Debate Hits Airwaves As Idaho Governor, Lawmakers Clash