Do the Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, Senator Dean Cameron and Representative Maxine Bell really decide how much to cut Idaho education budgets or how much and in what way to cut state employee and teacher pay? No.
Wednesday night Dean Cameron and Maxine Bell sat on the stage in front of more than 600 teachers and parents and had to defend cuts to education and teacher pay because Governor Otter and House Leaders Mike Moyle, Ken Roberts and Scott Bedke didn't feel obligated to come defend their own parts in really deciding how these budgets will be set.
Wednesday night Dean Cameron sat in the middle of a huge line of silent law makers under the lights and read from a script. I know he didn't relish it. He is a kind, reasonable man who I believe tries hard to do the right thing in a place that has changed much over the past five years. He said he had no choice but to cut education. In the realm of politics he did not. In the realm of the real world there are ways to keep education budgets whole for 2010 and 2011 even if the economy worsens.
But some Republican leaders refuse to put education higher than roads or business tax cuts in their set of priorities. These people ran on smaller government platforms and if it means cutting schools, laying off teachers and state employees and cutting pay till it all unravels, they will do it. They have done it. Privatizing broken government services puts our tax dollars in the hands of businesses, which may or may not do a better job than government.
These leaders, along with Tom Luna, Bob Nonini and John Goedde I believe would privatize education, like we've privatized health care, even if such a system would benefit only those with enough money to pay for a good education. Even if those with less money would get something less for their children.
Wednesday night Governor Otter didn't come and defend why he will not spend his $44 million in flexible stimulus dollars to keep our schools whole. Representatives Moyle, Roberts and Bedke in the House did not come and defend their work to force their 8 House members on the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee to try to cut education and teacher pay even deeper than we actually have.
In the realm of the real world, Republicans in the House of Representatives have elected leaders who now decide how the House will vote on certain issues, local option taxes and public transit funding being one of those issues and education funding and policy being another.
In the realm of politics, Republican legislators in the House of Representatives do not get to vote their conscience or in the interest of their their districts. To keep committee assignments or avoid a Republican primary election, you do as your leaders say.
You have no choice.