Both sides are praising the Idaho Supreme Court’s ruling in the long-running school funding lawsuit today, though the court sided with school districts who sued the state.
“I’m not surprised by the opinion at all – in fact, I think it was a very friendly opinion by the court,” said House Speaker Bruce Newcomb. “I think it gave everybody direction.”
Newcomb, R-Burley, said the justices ruled clearly that the Legislature has to do more to fund school construction. “It says the property taxes aren’t enough, aren’t sufficient, and we’ve known that for a long time,” he said.
In fact, Idaho has long been one of the toughest states in the nation in which to build a school, because it both relies almost entirely on local property taxes to pay for construction, and requires local voters to vote by a two-thirds supermajority to raise their own taxes in order to pass a school construction bond. The idea of adding state funds to the local property taxes has been a controversial one; lawmakers have approved some temporary programs to help some school districts in recent years, but haven’t continued funding them.
“We’re off dead center now,” Newcomb said. “Both sides have got to step to the table on this one.”
Robert Huntley, the former Idaho Supreme Court justice who represented school districts in the lawsuit, said in a statement, “The decision of the Idaho Supreme Court is a positive step forward for the benefit of all of the people of Idaho, especially Idaho’s school children and their families. … We look forward to a productive relationship with the Office of the Governor and the members of the Idaho Legislature. We expect to achieve a ‘win-win’ package of legislation to meet the mandate of constitutionality … as affirmed by the Idaho Supreme Court.”