The Idaho legislature turned down a voucher expansion that would have subsidized the tuition of rich kids. Behind the voucher defeat was a passionate network of parents determined to keep public dollars in public schools.

Peter Greene reports:

Last year, Idaho’s legislature passed a limited school voucher bill; this year school voucher supporters raised a more expansive proposal that was just defeated by Republicans.

Last year’s Empowering Parents Grant Program used $50 million of American Rescue Plan recovery money to give education vouchers to families. It limited the education savings account (ESA) vouchers to students who were already enrolled in public schools and whose families had an income equal to or less than 250% of the free or reduced lunch cut-off.

That program was established on a modest scale. This year voucher supporters proposed a larger, more universal form.

Senate Bill 1038 included no income limits and no requirements for previously attending public school. In other words, a wealthy family who had always enrolled their children in private school or home school would get $6,000 of taxpayer money, and that money would be pulled from the funding for schools that the students had never attended in the first place; the school’s funding would be reduced, but their operating costs would not.

Like most of the current boilerplate ESA bills, it not only failed to provide for oversight for those funds, but actively barred the state from exercising any oversight or authority over the education providers.

There was a huge price tag involved. While the bill’s sponsors estimated a $45 million price tag for the first year, other estimates suggested that the programwould quickly balloon to over $360 million. That expansion would match the experience of other states like New Hampshire, where the predicted cost of the program quickly grew by 5,800%.

As Senator C, Scott Grow (R-Eagle) put it, “I have absolutely no clue what the dollar amount on this is.”

It’s a huge amount of taxpayer money to be taken out of the public school system and distributed without oversight or accountability, and while conservative lawmakers in some states have not balked at that issue, some Idaho GOP members were not having it. Reported the Idaho Statesman:

“It’s actually against my conservative, Republican perspective to hand this money out with no accountability that these precious tax dollars are being used wisely,” said Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls…

Three more voucher bills also failed.

Two GOP representatives, Greg Lanting and Lorei McCann, explained their no votes:

McCann and Lanting both said for every email supporting ESA legislation, they receive five opposing it. Lanting represents the same district as Clow.Rep. Mark Sauter, R-Sandpoint, said voting for the legislation would be equivalent to voting against his constituency.