Sunday, March 6, 2005

A Response for Nick-- Funding Higher Education

As I began answering Nick's comments about Elmer Martinez and the legislation in the Idaho Congress that I've taken interest in, I realized my comments would not be brief and the issue deserved an entire post.

Recently, in regard to the lawsuit ASISU has filed against the Idaho State Board of Education, I wrote formal letters to the Idaho senators serving on the Idaho State Senate Education Committee and then sent emails, via the State homepage to the representatives in my area, including Elmer Martinez. I also sent a formal letter to Sen. Denton Darrington, the senator from my home town of Declo. I received a response from Denton yesterday. I'd like to think that they respond personally to my comments, Elmer's response may have been computer generated, but the response from Denton was more personal.

Both Senator Darrington and Representative Martinez promised to consider my perspective as this legislation hits the floor of both the House and Senate. And both recognize that the support for all education is "waning and certainly will not improve this year or next."

The ISU student body has filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Education. This will inevitably come before the Idaho House of Representatives soon and then if it passes will continue on to the Senate. Our current student body president at ISU assures me that it will most likely have to see a state-wide vote. They essentially want to convert BSU, ISU, and Lewis and Clark into tuition-based systems rather than the current fee systems. This is not legal under the Idaho constitution and excludes the University of Idaho. The state, from what I can tell, no longer wants to put that 34% of funding into higher education. If this goes through I'm afraid an "outsourcing" of education will happen in Idaho.

Education has become less and less a priority under our current governor and it is fine time the students in Idaho stand up and say something. It is a national epidemic, but Idaho seems to have been hit very hard by the education budget cuts. In 2006, Idaho will vote for a new governor whom I hope will come to the aid of the struggling education system, but we all have to do our part.

Mine is an interesting position as this is not the first time I've jumped headfirst into a heated debate about budget cuts plaguing educational institutions. As a senior in high school as ISATs were on the rise and the funding was in an downward spiral, I wrote a letter to the editor of each of our local newspapers supporting the teachers in what I felt was a "no-win" situation for them. Seeking only to support the teachers who were facing drastic cuts, I took a lot of heat for being what a local-radio host called "ungrateful."

I can't emphasize enough how important it is for all of us to take a stand on this issue. Though some are nearer to graduation than others, it is our obligation to the future students of Idaho's public universities and to the future leaders of Idaho to do everything in our power to prevent this legislation from passing and enforcing the tuition system on our schools. Personally I would encourage you to start the letter writing process. Let your voice be heard.

Idaho State Legislature
State Capitol Building
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, Idaho
83720-0038 (House)
83720-0081 (Senate)


Tara A. Rowe said...

Just an update on this story-- Friday at the last minute Speaker of the House Bruce Newcomb brought the tuition bill to the floor of the House. It passed.

It will now go to the senate and my hope is the senate will stop this dead in its tracks. My hope is Sen. Darrington, Sen. Marley, and Sen. Stennitt will see how important it is to not pass such poorly written legislation.

R. Alex said...

I'm relatively new to Idaho and attended college in Texas, so could you clarify what you mean by "tuition-based" and "fee-based"?