Volunteers Work For And Against Boise School Levy

Mar 13, 2012


More than half a dozen schools districts throughout the Treasure Valley will ask voters to decide if they’re willing to pay higher taxes to support local education. One of the largest levies is for Boise’s School District. It’s a 70 million dollar levy over five years. That dollar amount has brought volunteers on both sides out to canvas neighborhoods to get your vote…

Elizabeth Rodgers goes  door to door in this north Boise neighborhood handing out “Yes for Boise Schools” signs. Rodgers calls herself a cog in the wheel of the levy campaign. She says she couldn’t let things change for her two kids who go to Boise schools.

Elizabeth Rodgers  “We moved here from California. And part of our reason to move here was that they had good schools. I don’t think people realize how good the schools are.”

As Rodgers canvases the neighborhood, she raves about Boise schools… like how all four high schools are on the Washington Post’s lists of top schools.   But she’s most excited about the dual language program her kindergartener is in.

Elizabeth Rodgers “So it’s the exact same curriculum as the regular Boise public schools except that 50 percent of the day is in Spanish. So they’re not taught Spanish, they’re taught in Spanish. In Los Angeles you have to lottery into these places and you don’t get in.”

The Boise school district says part of the levy money will go to preserving student programs like dual language classes. Rodgers says she’s OK with paying higher taxes for that.

Elizabeth Rodgers “It’s an accountable tax. It’s going straight to fill in the short fall. And it’s going to be spread out over five years. They’re not being frivolous with the budget. They’ve seriously cut back the budget because they’ve had too. And there’s no fat left to cut.”

The Boise school district says it’s lost 35 million dollars of state funding in the past four years, and already had to make 22 million dollars in cuts. Most of those have been done through shedding jobs from administrative staff to teachers. District officials say if the levy doesn’t pass it will get rid of more than 200 more positions and class sizes will go up by four to six students in each class.

Elizabeth Rodgers “Everyone, whether you agree with the levy or not understands that a bigger class results in learning that doesn’t achieve the same affects as a smaller class.”

So far everyone on this street agrees with Rodgers including Kim Wiener who has a levy sign in her window. She has three kids in Boise schools. She’s counting on the levy to pass.

Kim Wiener “And if it doesn’t, I’m afraid I might have to look at alternatives if it changes a lot. And I don’t want to have to do that.”

Rodgers and other volunteers have blanketed Boise with their vote yes on the levy message. In fact the group Friends of Boise Schools got this levy pushed back from last summer to today because they needed more time to convince voters. But that’s also given more time for volunteers on the other side to organize.

Chad Inman works the line at Ada County’s Republican presidential caucus last Tuesday. He’s with Tea Party Boise.

Chad Inman “And I’ve got a couple of children in the public school system. I’ve got family that are teachers, I love teachers, but I’d like to keep my money.”

Tea Party Boise members have also knocked on doors, and handed out flyers urging people to vote “no” on Boise’s 70 million dollar levy. Inman says the district is strong arming voters by saying vote for this or class sizes will go up.

Chad Inman “Why don’t we look at other options? They didn’t even give us the option of ‘we’re going to have to shut school down, or we’re going to have to double shift, or we’re going to look at administration funds.”

But Inman says he wouldn’t support a school levy under any circumstances. Despite keeping his two kids in the Boise School district Inman says he would rather see education privatized. He’d rather pay tuition than taxes. Caucus goers were largely receptive to Inman’s message as he talked with people waiting to go inside Boise State’s Taco Bell Arena.

One man said “I’m voting against it.  They just cry for more and more and more.”

The Boise school district does have four supplemental levies homeowners are already paying on. Unlike the one up for a vote today, those don’t have end dates. But some people at the caucus said they’d vote for the levy.

One woman says  “To offset what they’ve been cut back.” Her friend adds “It’s terrible how they cut those teachers.”

Inamn says he’s met other people who claim to be conservative and plan to vote for the levy because they support teachers.

Chad Inman “And all I have to say to that is the school district has done a nice job educating the people. That’s exactly what they want to think. This vote on the 13th is not for the teachers. The school districts are clear, this is a vote to keep the class size at what it is right now, status quo.”

Inman says he has no problem at all with class sizes going up. And what Boise’s future class sizes are may well come down to people like Chad Inman and Elizabeth Rodgers. A year ago, neighboring Meridian tried to pass a levy. Volunteers campaigned heavily against it and that levy failed. Today Meridian will try again along with Boise to get voters to say yes to millions of dollars for schools.