Protecting and Improving Public Education
The public school system in two of the five counties in District 2, Benewah and Clearwater, represent an area of 3,272 square miles. Both counties have a total of three school districts with a total of about 2,300 students. Orofino Joint School District, Plummer Worley School District, and St. Maries Joint School District grapple with enticements to attract teachers to these remote areas of Idaho. In comparison, the Moscow School District has the same number of students as Benewah and Clearwater Counties and covers an area of 117 square miles.
I know the struggles rural school systems experience. I went to school in a rural 3-room schoolhouse with about 40 kids in grades one through eight. My mother taught in rural Idaho schools for over 35 years. My father was on our local school board and president of Idaho State Trustees Association.
In schools like Timberline School located between Weippe and Pierce in Clearwater County, the enrollment is 200 school kids, grades K-12. Year after year rural school districts continue to fall short, requiring mill levy overrides to continue to operate (that's another issue). If Idaho incorporates school vouchers into our system, even a few public school students opting out of our small public schools, like Timberline, will force school closures and consolidation. In Timberline's case, students would have to travel over a hundred miles a day, round trip, to attend school in Orofino. The same is true for small elementary schools like Upriver Elementary in Fernwood that services small communities that include Clarkia, Emida, and Santa. In rural counties like Clearwater, Benewah, and Shoshone, school districts are one of the largest employers, providing the economic base rural communities need to remain viable.
To be clear, I adamantly oppose any type of privatization voucher system in our Idaho public school system.