Online Sales Tax a Possibility to Increase Idaho School Funding

A joint meeting in Idaho between the House and Senate Education Committees led to discussions about Common Core – what students K-12 should know in English arts and mathematics at the end of each grade – concerns and the possibility of collecting an online sales tax. The money would be used for improvements and restoration in education funding.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna shared his thoughts on the state of education and outlined the funding idea. The proposal centers on recommendations made by the Governor’s Education Task Force.

The task force’s recommendations included giving high school students opportunities to earn college credist and more access for students to wireless technology. In order to move on the recommendations, the chairman says that the Common Core standards in Idaho must succeed.

“I would say [the task force] not only supported the adoption or follow through of Common Core, but recognized there was a fair amount of work that needed to be done for successful implementation,” Richard Westerberg, chairman of the Governor’s Task Force, said. “That successful implementation is really absolutely imperative if any of the other recommendations we make are going to be successful, and that is a heavy lift.”

Despite the fact that Sen. Monty Pearce likes some of the recommendations, he is hesitant when it comes to Common Core. He describes it as an experiment, and he is “not interested in subjecting Idaho children to an experiment.”  He prefers waiting until things are proven to work before jumping in.

Luna addressed Pearce’s concerns by saying, “We’re not experimenting with the whole concept of standards. I think what is new is you have states that have taken the lead and chosen to work together.”

If Luna’s plan works, then the recommendations, which will cost an estimated $350-400 million over the next 5-6 years, will be funded through an online sales tax.

“The fact is, we are creating a whole new class of tax exemption if we continue to allow people to shop online without collecting the sales tax that is due,” Luna said. “So I encourage the legislature to consider this at the same time you consider these task force recommendations and the amount of revenue our state needs to fund this path forward to improve education.”

Luna said Idaho would have collected around $65 million more in revenue in 2013 if the state had collected sales tax on online purchases. Luna insists it is not a tax increase; it is sales tax that they were not collecting due to the business being done online. He considers this a funding issue. He is asking lawmakers to take three steps to implement the recommendations of the task force.

The steps are: to fund an increase of $35 million that will lead to operational funding for schools; to implement a “career ladder” that will be used to pay teachers based on licenses; and to pay for high school students to take more advanced placement, dual credit and technical courses that would count towards college credit.

01 23, 2014
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