School-choice advocates joined a handful of state lawmakers at a news conference this morning to press for lawmakers to override Gov. Butch Otter’s veto of HB 126, legislation that sought to make a change in the school funding formula, at a cost to the general fund of $1.7 million, to send funding to schools, including virtual charter schools, that students transfer to mid-year. Tom LeClaire, a board member of the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families and a parent of students at the Idaho Virtual Academy, said his group believes the money should follow the student.
Asked why the group didn’t propose some type of split – rather than the double-funding for those students that prompted Otter’s veto – LeClaire said, “That seems like the reasonable thing to do, but we just could never get agreement – that was just off the table.”
House Majority Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, who joined the group at the news conference, said House GOP leaders haven’t yet determined what they’ll do; the vetoed bill currently is being held at the desk in the House. It passed both houses by more than two-thirds, meaning if lawmakers stuck to their earlier positions on it in a veto-override vote, they could override the veto.
Meanwhile, Otter has sent a letter to lawmakers saying that despite the veto, he's working with a committee of his education improvement task force and it will bring proposals on this issue to the Legislature next year. "If necessary in order to address concerns raised by proponents of HB 126, I will request a supplemental appropriation during the 2016 legislative session to address the issue of schools that experience enrollment growth later in the academic year," he wrote.
The bill was sponsored by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, who back in November, penned a strongly worded op-ed that ran in newspapers across the state that was critical of "crony capitalism" in the Otter Administration, including on the Idaho Education Network debacle; she wrote then that GOP lawmakers were afraid to object for fear of their bills being vetoed. In the op-ed, Boyle complained of “crony capitalism, corruption, special favors for campaign donors, the Governor's staff moving to lobby and/or work for the very businesses receiving the contract or from those companies to the Governor's staff, ... back-slapping, good old boy networks, winks and nods, cover ups, denying involvement, blaming others, attacking those asking questions or with the courage to say the Emperor has no clothes."
She also wrote, “Will Republican legislators allow themselves to be intimidated into silence simply because of a Republican governor, worried their bills will be vetoed or not even printed?”