Writings and observations

Underground school support

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Here’s a concept to get your mind around: On-line physical education in schools. That is, taught from outside of school. Or something.

This unlikely idea surfaced at the Lapwai School District after voters there on August 26 turned down a quarter-million dollar one-year levy. It wasn’t close; just 41 percent of voters approved it. It was the second recent levy failure, after voters rejected a larger one in May.

Afterward, District Superintendent David Aiken said the effects will include elimination of in-person physical education. The school gym and equipment will remain available but, he told the Lewiston Tribune, “the teacher is on the other side of the computer.”

Try for a moment to imagine how well this is going to work.

Threats to athletics traditionally have been one of the last-ditch and most successful maneuvers to get patrons to cough up additional school money, but the Lapwai example suggests that in Idaho, at least in some places, even that isn’t enough.

Levies and bonds failed in a number of other places as well, but Lapwai was one of the few places in Idaho where a financing proposal failed to pull well over 50 percent of the vote. That’s all most levies need to pass, but bonds (because of longer-term indebtedness) require two thirds. In Lapwai, a majority opposed the tax increase. In how many other districts last month was that true?

Voters in just one district passed bond issues with the required two-thirds-plus: New Plymouth. But others cleared the 50 percent mark, sometimes easily. West Ada (formerly Meridian) proposed a truly massive bond measure, $104 million for a range of projects broad enough voters could be forgiven for not wrapping their minds around all of them. The bond plan failed – but it picked up 63 percent of the vote, a strong majority.

A few miles west at the little Notus district, another bond measure (to replace a 90-year-old school) also failed, but again 63 percent of the voters supported it.

In Wendell, a double-header bond and levy proposal failed; but here too, a strong majority of voters were in favor of them (65% and 63% respectively).

Pro-funding majorities actually turned up in many places around the state. Wilder, by some measures the poorest school district in Idaho (based on the number of students qualifying for free or low-cost lunches), passed a $598,000 levy with 67% in favor. Another poor district by any economic measure, Bruneau-Grand View, passed a $600,000 levy with a big margin. At Madison County, a measure raising nearly $2 million got 62% support. At Council, a two-year levy was approved with 63%.

The people at Lapwai schools probably shouldn’t give up. Support for schools is out there, especially when voters can be persuaded to, you know, vote. If turnout can be raised, even Lapwai may be able to bring live teachers back to their PE classes.

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