Reclaim Idaho files Quality Education Act initiative

Group also launches lawsuit to challenge new initiative requirements

By Reader Staff

Reclaim Idaho filed a ballot initiative with the Idaho secretary of state April 28 called the Quality Education Act — an initiative that the grassroots group said would boost funding for K-12 education by over $200 million annually, paid for by a tax increase for corporations and the wealthiest Idahoans. 

As the organization kicks off its campaign for public education funding, they are also launching a lawsuit against Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney over Idaho’s new law regarding the ballot initiatives process, which Gov. Brad Little signed on April 17. 

Reclaim Idaho and other critics of the law say it gives Idaho the most restrictive initiative process in the nation, and makes grassroots initiative campaigns virtually impossible in the Gem State. The new law requires campaigns to collect signatures from 6% of registered voters in each of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts — up from the 18 districts previously required.

“The people of Idaho retained for themselves a constitutional right to make or repeal laws,” the group argues in its petition against the state. “At the same time, they gave the Legislature a trust responsibility to enact the methods and procedures for exercising the right. Over the years, the Legislature has exploited its limited power, imposing increasingly byzantine and unreasonable requirements for the proponents of initiatives or referendums to qualify their petitions for the ballot. 

“This campaign of death-by-a-thousand-cuts reached its apotheosis in this 2021 legislative session,” the petition continues, “when the Legislature passed Senate Bill 1110, which contains the most stringent requirements for signature collecting in the nation … These requirements unreasonably burden the core fundamental right and are unconstitutional.”

In the event that Reclaim Idaho prevails in court, the organization will immediately begin a signature drive to place the Quality Education Act on the ballot.

“Idaho is dead last out of 50 states in education funding per student, but our legislators believe the big problem to be addressed is teachers ‘indoctrinating’ students,” said Reclaim Idaho co-founder Luke Mayville. “What a slap in the face to the teachers of our state. It’s time to stop attacking our educators and to start investing in them.”

In the event that Reclaim Idaho does not win the lawsuit, and the new law remains intact, the organization will likely put its campaign for education funding on hold and instead launch a signature drive to qualify the Initiative Rights Act for the ballot.  

The Initiative Rights Act, also recently filed by Reclaim Idaho, would restore the signature requirements that existed in 2012: 6% of registered voters statewide, without regard to where those voters live. For most of Idaho history, there was no geographic-distribution requirement for signature drives, according to organizers. The first such requirement did not appear until 1997.

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