Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on today's debate at the City Club of Boise between the two candidates for state superintendent of schools. After the debate, I asked former Superintendent Jerry Evans for his impressions. Evans, a Republican, hasn’t endorsed either of the two candidates in the race, Democrat Jana Jones or Republican Sherri Ybarra. Evans said, “Both of them make a strong point about engaging a broad array of stakeholders, which is encouraging to me. I think they both made that point rather clearly.”
“I was a little surprised,” he said, “that Sherri kind of ducked the question of the issue of sales tax on out-of-state sales. I thought they both would say, ‘We ought to explore every opportunity to come up with money for our state’s schools.’”
Current GOP Superintendent Tom Luna has been advocating collecting more of the sales taxes owed on online purchases for the past several years as a way to increase funding for schools; Idaho requires the taxes be paid, but people are “virtually on the honor system,” in the words of today’s debate moderator, Jim Weatherby. Idahoans are supposed to report their online purchases and pay the taxes after the fact on their state income tax returns, but few do.
Asked if they’d push to go after sales taxes on Internet sales to better fund schools, the candidates had differing responses. “I don’t think that there’s a superintendent in this room that wouldn’t want more money for education,” Ybarra said. “If I had a humongous pot of money that was never-ending, it would never be enough. But … it is the responsibility of the legislators to decide the tax formula, and how they provide a thorough education. And I will be a champion and standing alongside them to make sure that that happens, adequate funding in education.”
Jones said, “This has been discussed several times in our Legislature, and it’s something that I think we absolutely should explore and take a look at. Again, the legislators are the ones who decide what we tax, what we don’t tax, where we cut, where we don’t cut. But it’s really critical that we make Idaho’s public schools and our children our No. 1 priority, and as a state superintendent I will strongly advocate for those kids to be No. 1 up front with every legislator.” She added, “I will advocate and work with our Legislature on any way that we can ensure that we have funding for our public schools going forward.”
Evans said, “I think when you’re starving to death, you look at every opportunity to find something for that table.”