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Op-Ed: Gilbert – Idaho is Awash with Cash, Use It

By • July 25, 2022

With Idaho bursting at the seams with money – a whopping $1.3 billion surplus – you know there will be a long list of people lining up for the windfall cash.

Terry Gilbert of Boise, the Democratic candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, plans to elbow his way to the front of the line if elected. He’s already making his pitch.

“The state of Idaho is cheating its children and their families by amassing a $1.3 billion surplus while underfunding education and pushing the cost onto homeowners through constant school bonds and levies,” he said in a recent news release. “Idaho needs a school-funding trigger law that will devote at least 50 percent of any state surplus to education, including paying off school bonds to lower property taxes.”

Good luck with getting anything like that through the Legislature. And don’t expect the House State Affairs Committee to take up Gilbert’s thoughts about raising the age limit to 21 for buying assault weapons. Being a Democrat in a sea of Republicans, Gilbert won’t make much headway on proposals that stray from the beaten path. But those factors won’t stop him from speaking out.

Gilbert is a 76-year-old retired teacher and former president of the Idaho Education Association, so he is accustomed to the political fray. Shyness is not part of his DNA.

He asks, “Why does Idaho have $1.3 billion in the bank while forcing patrons to pay for education by forcing school districts to constantly raise their property taxes?”

Good question … and there’s more. Why does Idaho have a teacher shortage? Why does the Gem State rank last in per-pupil funding? Why does classroom-aid funding rank dead last in the nation? Why does Idaho have the sixth highest ratio of students to teachers?

None of those things should occur with a $1.3 billion surplus.

“Finally, why does the Idaho Legislature continue to ignore the Idaho Supreme Court, which ruled in 2005 that Idaho’s funding of education facilities was wholly inadequate to meet its constitutional requirement? A recent study revealed it would take $874 million to bring our public-school facilities up to good condition,” he says.

That’s small change, with a $1.3 billion surplus.

One question I have is why does a guy who is 76 years old – with a teaching career long behind him – want to take on the worst job in state government. Bashing the state superintendent is a way of life for politicians and educators; it’s been that way for decades.

And what does Gilbert know about managing a department that looks more like a two-headed monster? Not much, actually.

But let’s not get hung up with age. “I am 76 … as old as a former president, and much different mentally than that man,” he said with a smile.

“I have great passion for a couple of things in life, and one is public education,” he said. “Secondly, our democracy depends on public education. If we do away with public education, in whatever form the Idaho Freedom Foundation advocates, we will lose our democracy – and we’re on the cusp of losing that anyway in my estimation.”

Gilbert began his teaching career in 1967, two years before I graduated from high school (that’s old, folks) and retired from full-time teaching in 2007. He’s a former president of the Idaho Education Association – that was back in 1977, when the IEA had some lobbying clout. But he says that he is well versed on the changes and trends in education and has opinions galore about the shortfalls in Idaho’s education system. He has endorsed the education initiative spearheaded by Reclaim Idaho.

And he’s running for an office where Democrats have a fighting chance. Democrats received 49 percent of the vote in the last three elections. Gilbert is going against a stronger opponent this year in Republican Debbie Critchfield of Oakley, and Gilbert concedes that he is facing an uphill battle. But he says that some diverse thinking might be helpful for Idaho schools.

He describes the Republican platform for education as something that “could have been enthusiastically adopted by the southern segregationists of the 1950s. It would be equally popular with the anti-public-school libertarians and fat-cat privateers of today.”

Say one thing about Gilbert … he’s not lacking for spirit.

ctmalloy@outlook. Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

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Tags: Chuck Malloy, Democrat, Education, House State Affairs Committee, Terry Gilbert

19 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Gilbert – Idaho is Awash with Cash, Use It

  1. The 1.3 billion is the Taxpayers money. They were overcharged.
    Pay it back to the Taxpayer including interest and penalties accrued.
    Then move on to next year’s budget with dollar for dollar accountability.

    1. We need to charge parents a token fee to educate their children, having the token fee would make the parents more involved in their childrens education ,,Jr. We be ah payin moneys fo da schoolin you betta gets da good grades. Simple and effective. Another wonderful thing would be get rid of the unionized teacher crime gang. Never has so much been spent for such low resulted.

  2. Make no mistake the Dems will lie, cheat and steal to get elected. They are here to flip Idaho blue as they did in Colorado. Democrats have been using crossover voting and are perfectly okay with putting Dems in as Republicans to dilute our conservative votes. Electing an old Bidenesk retired union Teachet would be a huge mistake. Most of that money is I believe from the government through Covid funding. Take from the government and you are beholden to their stipulations required in utilizing those funds.

    1. So do the Republicans. look at our politicians raping the people in Idaho . Most
      I duh hoans like being raped by the criminal politicians and unionized government employees.

  3. Well, for such an educated man he should have known that we are not about to lose “our democracy”. We have as a form of government, a democratic republic. The founding fathers feared mob rule. That is why we have a representative form of government. He should learn what kind of government we have or does he already know and has other motives in mind?

  4. Simply using some of the surplus to fund education is a noble, and valid, point. The problem is, however, that school districts have been clamoring for more money for over 50 years, and getting it most of the time, but that money never gets to the teachers or classrooms. Our educational system is top heavy with administrators and “specialists”, not to mention the aberrant curriculum and political brainwashing that is becoming a hallmark of American education. Get back to basics, redirect the massive amount of money the schools already get, and get rid of the dead wood at the top. Then let’s talk money.

  5. Idaho should spend more on education. The key is how they use it. Throwing away $ on bad ideas like common core needs to stop. Come up with a better system and move on. Technical schools are a fast track to a decent living. We need more and better.

  6. Public schools already get a tremendous amount of money. It is truly amazing that I can homeschool my kids on a budget and teach them how to manage money properly while the public school system is turning out poor test scores and asking for more funds. It’s time for school reform. Tax returns to hard-working citizens instead of dumping more money into a failing government system is in order.

  7. Government schools and unionized teachers are why Idahoans are so poorly educated. Why does a right to work state have unionized government employees?

  8. The public education system isn’t about education…it’s about indoctrination. They don’t want self-thinking and educated people, they want people who will reflexively follow every mandate that government authorities mete out. Apparently it takes unlimited monies to coerce kids to follow their rules. Government is a money laundering operation that keeps powerful people in power to do the bidding of people who want to destroy our society and nation.

  9. Gilbert got it wrong. $847 million is NOT small change. And don’t forget that estimate was made in 2005 and inflation has more than doubled since then, so the “projected” cost would easily exceed a billion. But that’s predicated on Money fixing the problem. And one of the oldest political cures for ANY problem is to throw some more money at the situation, then RAISE taxes to pay for it.
    And Gary Seven said it best. A close look at the education system is badly needed, but not to determine how much money is needed to fix it, but how to make it a functional system again. And remember, it’s about our children getting a proper education instead of the dumbed down, common core, no child I left behind system we now have.
    And there are MANY tax problems that NEED to be addressed, the most important being property tax. There are so many problems in that one area that it would take another complete text to mention them. Get THAT settled first.

  10. Spoken like a true inbred Democrat politician. Take a look at the states with the highest per pupil funding in the nation. California spends almost 2X what Idaho spends per student. Per EdWeek… California ranks BELOW Idaho in every measured category:

    New York spends more than 3X what Idaho does… and EdWeek ranks them at a score of 73.4 vs. Idaho at 73.3.

    Florida ranks 43rd in spending, just slightly more per student than Idaho, and yet they’re ranked 3rd overall in performance by EdWeek.

    It ain’t the money. The fact that so many imbeciles are so easily sucked in by the standard Democrat battlecry of “MORE MONEY MORE MONEY MORE MONEY” without looking at the wealth of data that completely debunks their claims is truly depressing. I’d love to think Idaho is smarter than this, but we’ll see.

    And this imbecile wants to tell us it’s about the funding?

    1. Idaho is “awash with cash” because of the massive influx of people from out of state flooding the country driving up property values and thus property taxes (and I’m one of them… sorry… but I’m here as reinforcements, not the enemy). If the state is flush with surplus, what it should be doing is implementing one of the ONLY things CA ever got right politically (back when it was RED). Prop 13.

      No government should have the ability to tax people out of their homes. That’s absolute bullshit and I can’t believe a red state tolerates it. Texas is the same way. People buy their homes and land at a specified value knowing what the tax is. The fact that that the government can tell a retired couple living in their home for 50 years that their land has gone up 5X in price, so they owe 5X the property taxes is disgusting.

      So if the politicians in Boise are so hell bent on figuring out what to do with all that cash… try giving it back to the people it belongs to. And you can start with letting people lock in their property taxes.

  11. “…he says that he is well versed on the changes and trends in education and has opinions galore about the shortfalls in Idaho’s education system.”
    This is exactly what’s wrong with him! I’m a career educator from a Leftist state, and I can tell you that the PROBLEM with the American education system is the constant “changes and trends.” I’m not saying there isn’t a need for technology or curriculum that adapts to the times. But the problem with education (in the US, more than anywhere) is that we’re constantly jumping on the “trends” bandwagons. It’s always about the next big trend, and in the process, we shortchange our students.

  12. Spoken like the true liberal democrat you are.

    Idaho is awash with cash “i.e. other people’s money”… so spend it as fast as you can rather than giving it back to the people you stole it from.

    Idaho ranks second to last in per-pupil spending, and yet ranks higher in academic performance than two of the highest spending states in the country in New York and California… but you’re right… let’s just focus on spending MORE. That’ll solve it.

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