Editor’s Note: We are providing this opinion piece by Bill Rutherford, the Democrat Candidate for Idaho State Senator in District 20, in order to assist our readers in understanding their political options. Our publication of this article does not constitute an endorsement of Mr. Rutherford or his positions.
This is a story about how Undisclosed Education Overhead Cost, Sales Tax Exemptions, Campaign Finance, ALEC and State Senator Chuck Winder (District 20) all combine to negatively impact our funding for Public Schools.
Due to our Campaign Finance laws I think it’s fair to say that Idaho’s future is for sale to Corporations. After reviewing Chuck Winder’s campaign finance donations since 2009 I can report that he has received close to $154,000 in campaign donations with 87% of this money coming from Corporations and PACs .
ALEC – American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC’s strategy is to financially starve the public schools, run the teachers off which is actually happening, then justify funding Charter and Private Schools because “Public Schools are Failing”. ALEC works with legislators like Chuck Winder to craft “model” legislation beneficial to privatization. Winder joined ALEC in 2012 and in return he receives campaign donations from ALEC corporate members (1). There is no thought given to the negative impact on our teachers, students and communities while this for-profit plan by ALEC unfolds over five to twenty years.
Since Chuck Winder joined ALEC he has been no supporter of teachers and meddled in local school board recall efforts (2, 3)). He has consistently supported Charter Schools according to his voting record. The commercial real estate firm he works for, Cushman & Wakefield, advertise their real estate services for Charter Schools.
How to Address the Problem
1) Reduce and/or Eliminate Sales Tax Exemptions – Sales tax are a primary source of funding for Public Schools. The exemptions approved by the Legislature may be costing the Education budget as much as $300 to $500 Million dollars per year. The 2016 Education budget was $1.8Billion. We need transparency on this issue in order to find out who is benefiting and the actual exemption dollar amount. Communities continue to pass supplemental levy request for additional school funding due to budget shortfalls.
2) Manage Education Overhead Cost – The state professes not to know what the total overhead cost are for K-12 Education due to the way they break out the budget. This deliberate lack of transparency about Education Overhead cost allows politicians to easily siphon off funds for political favors like consulting contracts etc… Overhead cost and how they are calculated should be public knowledge.
3) Pass legislation dealing with privatization that calls for the same contract standards, rules and transparency as our public schools. This will allow for accurate comparisons between public and private education cost.
4) Reform our Campaign Finance laws. Lower the limits for contributions to $25 to $50 per election year compared with the present limit of $2,000 for Legislative races. This would effectively eliminate corporate influence on our Legislature and give voters their seat at the table.
Bill Rutherford (D) is a retired 64 year old professional engineer, former business owner and veteran from Meridian, Idaho running for State Senator in District 20 against Chuck Winder (R). He only accepts donations from individuals and non-profit organizations trying to do something positive for Idaho.
(1) Past and Present ALEC/Winder Donors – BNFS RR – $1,000, Anheuser Busch – $2,000, Miller-Coors – $400, Pharma (Pharmaceuticals) – $1,750, Chevron – $1,250, Walmart – $750, Altria (formerly Phillip Morris Tobacco) – $2,750, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – $750, Zion’s Bank-corporation PAC – $450, K12 Management Inc. – $1,000, Simplot – $6,500