BOISE -- Election day is six weeks away, and the controversial "Students Come First" education plan is on the ballot as a recall. Voters get to decide if the laws stay, or go, in the form of three propositions.
Both sides of the issue have established campaigns and want your vote. Campaign ads have started on television and radio.
A new campaign ad on local TV asks voters to say "no" to proposition 3 on the November 6th ballot. That proposition deals primarily with district funding that requires funding for laptops and required online courses for high schoolers.
KTVB analyzed the ad, line-by-line, for a breakdown of what the campaign "Vote No Props 1, 2, 3" is saying. We also looked at what the law really says. The ad's claims are in bold, followed by information and perspectives from both sides.
"Prop 3 replaces teachers with computers by requiring that taxpayers fund laptops for high school students."
This claim is partially accurate. The program to eventually get each high schooler and teacher a laptop is funded with taxpayer dollars, but required online classes still require Idaho certified teachers.
"Each of those classes will occur, must occur in a classroom with a teacher present," Yes for Idaho Education Campaign Manager Ken Burgess said.
The campaign running the ad clarifies they are concerned with teacher downsizing as a result of more online learning.
"With online classes, we sometimes put 40, 50, even 100 or more kids into a single class, thereby necessitating fewer teachers," Vote No on Props 1, 2, 3 Campaign Spokesman Brian Cronin said. Cronin was a representative in the statehouse when Students Come First was approved.
As for the class sizes and teachers, the Idaho Department of Education confirms no part of the law dictates a minimum or maximum class size for online learning.
"The legislature failed to fully fund the laptops required by Prop 3, so our property taxes could increase."
The language in this claim is tricky to navigate. In reality, the legislature must fund the laptops because the Students Come First laws revised the school funding code that the appropriations committee (JFAC) must follow.
Since code requires laptops be funded with state dollars, property taxes should never be increased to specifically pay for this laptop program. The current year's funding for teacher laptops was accounted for in the 2012 session.
"The legislature does not fund on a multi-year basis, so it is true that the first year is funded. Next year, the second year the roll out will be funded, the third year will be funded, the fourth year and so on into the future," Burgess said.
The Vote No campaign believes since laptops must be funded with priority, other areas could be reduced and districts may turn to levies, or property taxes, to compensate for computers.
"The legislature is required to pay for it, but of course, if there's no new revenue, then where are we going to get the money?" Cronin said.
The Department of Education admits it cannot currently say exactly how much each laptop will cost because the contracts are still being worked on. A spokeswoman says the appropriation was made using estimates, and if the contract is higher, there is 'rainy day' funding available in the current budget.
"With kids being kids, you can see how the costs of this measure will get out of hand quickly."
This claim features video of a student dropping a laptop in a school hallway and another student leaving a laptop on a patio table when a sprinkler turns on.
In truth, while laptops might break or get lost, the law specifically calls for the contract with a laptop vendor to provide for maintenance, repair, and tech support.
"The state legislature -- the state of Idaho is required to fund the laptop program -- and that's the devices, that's the maintenance, that's the replacement, everything that goes with it," Burgess said.
The Vote No campaign says contractors and the state may underestimate how much potential loss or damage to initially budget for, but agrees that the contract will include the funding.
"That's true. I just think that the state is not being realistic about how much that's truly going to cost," Cronin said.
The law also requires districts to develop policies for how or if laptops are used outside of school.
Governor's written statement regarding Vote No to Prop 3 ad
"I didn't sign an unfunded mandate into law, and I didn't sign a tax increase into law. What I signed into law was a way to ensure equity and excellence for our students, opportunities for our teachers and accountability for local school trustees. There's plenty of truthful information available to help voters understand why it's important to vote YES for education reform. Don't believe the union bosses." - Governor Butch Otter