Asked about school budgets — and whether the state’s funding efforts pass constitutional muster — the answers from Chris Troupis were telling.
Troupis, a Republican challenging three-term GOP incumbent Lawrence Wasden, defended the Legislature’s funding effort. While 94 of Idaho’s 115 school districts use supplemental property tax levies to buttress state dollars, the state is putting about 63 percent of its budget into the schools system. “That’s certainly fulfilling its constitutional duty,” Troupis told City Club of Boise members Monday afternoon.
The way to get more money into schools, said Troupis, is to go to court and demand the transfer of federal lands to state management — to boost endowment payments.
Wasden took a different tack. He deferred on the basic question. The courts will decide whether the state is upholding its constutitional mandate “to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” The attorney general’s job, he said, is to defend the Legislature’s policy decisions in court.
And unlike Troupis, Wasden isn’t sold on the lands transfer issue. He doesn’t think the state has a winning case in court — and has said the state has a better chance of prevailing on Congress to transfer the lands.
The exchange displays more than a difference over K-12 funding. It also illustrated a key difference in approach, distinguishing the candidates vying for the GOP nomination May 20.
On several occasions, Wasden said his job is not to be a “cheerleader” – to give legislators the legal advice they want to hear. Troupis objected to the “cheerleader” characterization, and said the attorney general’s role is to serve as an “advocate” for the people.
In eight days, Republican voters will have a clear choice between candidates with differing views of the law — and the job they’re seeking.
Disclosure: I am a City Club of Boise board member, and I organized Monday’s forum on the club’s behalf.