The Quality Education Act, a voter initiative aimed at raising $323 million for K-12 education, moved one step closer to a November vote after organizers submitted more than 100,000 signatures to the U.S. Secretary of State’s office on Wednesday.
Reclaim Idaho, the organization behind the initiative, first submitted signatures in May for a county-level review. They will now undergo a second round of vetting at the state level, which will determine whether the initiative appears on the ballot. Reclaim Idaho is the same nonpartisan organization that campaigned for Medicaid expansion, winning 61% of the statewide vote in 2018.
In order to be on the ballot, initiative organizers must collect valid signatures from at least 6% of registered voters statewide and 6% of voters in 18 legislative districts. Reclaim volunteers began collecting signatures in 2021, they collected more than 100,000 signatures from 6% of voters in at least 20 legislative districts. The organization predicts that about 30% of its signatures will be rejected.
If it makes it onto the ballot and receives a simple majority, the Quality Education Act would provide $323 million in funding for K-12 programs, including career and technical areas such as carpentry and welding, as well as arts programs. It will also fund pay rises for teachers and school support staff.
To raise the money, the initiative calls for an increase in the corporate income tax rate to 8%. This would result in a tax rate of 10.925% for individual incomes above $250,000 and for family incomes above $500,000. Taxpayers making less than $250,000 will not see a tax increase, and the initiative will not affect property taxes.
Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville spoke at Wednesday’s event, surrounded by at least 100 volunteers, most wearing Reclaim’s signature green shirts. More than 50 signature-filled backpacks sat under the bleachers, some labeled with the names of Idaho counties.
“(This initiative) is a chance to say that our children must always be our first priority and that our government must always put their needs before the demands of any special interest group,” Mayville said. “The Quality Education Act gives Idahoans a chance to reclaim the principle proclaimed by our state’s founders 132 years ago that every Idaho child deserves a quality education.”
Mayville was joined by several other speakers, including ninth grader Anise Welty; Blaine County School Board Member Blanco Green; Best Bath Owner Gary Multanen; and former Boise Superintendent Don Coberly.
Second grade teacher Leah Jones also spoke about her experience working in the Twin Falls School District. According to Mayville, the district is one of the most underfunded in the state, spending less than $7,000 per student, well below the Idaho average. Idaho ranks 50th in the nation in per-student spending.
“Our kids deserve better, much better,” Jones said. “If we truly believe that every child in Idaho deserves a quality education, we must act now to provide greater support for our educators.”
After the speeches, Reclaim organizers handed backpacks one-on-one from the Capitol steps around the rotunda and into the Secretary of State’s office.
Reclaim is now waiting to see if the initiative will be on the ballot. Meanwhile, the organization has scheduled door-knocking for July 30 to inform voters about the Quality Education Act.
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