What is really going on in the Coeur d’Alene School District?
Updated: Mar 12
This is an extended version of the article that was posted in the print edition of The People's Pen.
In March the Coeur d’Alene School District is asking voters to fund their district through the passage of two levies: a School Plant Facilities Levy (SPFL) worth $5 million per year for the next 5 years and a supplemental levy worth $25 million per year forever. Yes, you heard that right: the Coeur d’Alene School District wants you to pay taxes towards the school district forever. No more coming back to the voter’s box every two years, the school district wants to take that right away from the taxpayer and just hand them over money without accountability…forever.
Questions continue to pop up whenever the school district is in the news or topic of conversation online but the ultimate question is does the Coeur d’Alene School District deserve our hard-earned taxpayer money? Rumors have started to fly and it’s hard to separate truth from reality when children are involved. But what is happening to our children and our money when we drop them off at the bus stop in the morning? Are they being properly taught the foundation necessary to live in this world? Do the teachers have the families’ best interests in mind? Do the parents know what goes on in the school district? Continue reading for the inside scoop.
ESSER funds on flying teachers across the country instead of going back to the students
ESSER funds are the education version of the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. These are the federal dollars that were given to every school district to “help” with Covid mitigation. There were three rounds of funding: ESSER I, ESSER II, ESSER III. ESSER I & II funds were strict about what the school districts could use those funds for but ESSER III had fewer restrictions. The CDA School District has taken advantage of those relaxed restrictions and used the federal taxpayer dollars to help even out the $3.5M deficit in their budget. Other uses of $13.35M in ESSER III funds include giving teachers raises, bonuses, flying teachers all over the country to learning development conferences, new curriculum and subsequent online licenses, new staff to help with the new mental health issues arising from the Covid “pandemic” and a tiny fraction put towards deferred maintenance. Note that a majority of the above items are not one-time payments or purchases, these are new items that will have to be continuously paid after the ESSER funds are depleted. This is a prime example of living beyond means and adding to the budgeting problem rather than being fiscally responsible. The full scope of ESSER funds and their appropriations are available on the CDA Schools website here: cdaschools.org/Page/8118
Portrait of a Graduate/Social Emotional Learning/Critical Race Theory
Coeur d’Alene School District Superintendent Shon Hocker has a statement on CDASchools.org about critical race theory in the CDA School District: “Whatever you may have heard about this controversial academic concept, please know this: critical race theory (CRT) is not taught in Coeur d’Alene Public Schools. It is not embedded in our curriculum nor is it included in any of our operating plans or staff training programs. It hasn’t found its way into our school district, nor has it even been considered, period.”
The Heritage Foundation defines critical race theory as “making race the prism through which its proponents analyze all aspects of American life, categorizing individuals into groups of oppressors and victims.” Why is this important?
The CDA School District uses Portrait of a Graduate as their educational “equity” framework which takes their guidance directly from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). CASEL brings the social emotional learning (SEL) and equity to the curriculum. From the CASEL website: “While SEL alone will not solve longstanding and deep-seated inequities in the education system, it can help school districts promote understanding, examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism, build cross-cultural relationships, and cultivate adult and student practices that close opportunity gaps and create more inclusive school communities. In doing so, districts can promote high-quality educational opportunities and outcomes for all students, irrespective of race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, and other differences.”
In other words, the CDA School District’s use of the Portrait of a Graduate equity framework directly puts personal bias, race, and supposed systemic inequities into focus while teaching that the system, including capitalism, is “rigged” to reward white behavior and preserve white supremacy. This framework, the one that subtly demands that it is a student’s priority to work to dismantle laws, traditions, norms, institutions, etc., is critical race theory in disguise.
So, when the superintendent says that critical race theory is not being taught in our schools, he is inaccurate; the Portrait of a Graduate framework is CRT praxis. For more information about the CDA School District’s equity framework, search for the term Equity Framework at CDASchools.org for more information about the school district’s use of equity and Portrait of a Graduate.
There are 15 administrative positions in the CDA School District not including school principals and vice principals. The superintendent has an annual salary of $167,000 plus $1200/month housing stipend. The recently open position of Director of Community Relations started at $105,000 per year. What do the other 13 administrative positions pay and why are the taxpayers funding such large salaries?
In 2022, over $300,000 of ESSER money helped teachers fly across the country for professional learning development conferences in Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Denver, etc. The ESSER funds that were to go towards child development loss; money that was supposed to help kids come back to safe and secure schools to make up for lost learning went towards “professional learning conferences” instead. Over $125,000 went to the Public Education Business Coalition alone, an organization whose mission includes “strengthening and monitoring our organizational systems with a deep focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).” PEBC partners with Promise54, a cohort whose sole purpose is to get to a point “when social justice organizations can achieve their missions” because “race remains the strongest single determinant of life outcomes in the US.”
Another $447,000 of ESSER funds are being used to pay Solution Tree for a 3-day “professional learning” workshop in August 2023. Solution Tree is bringing keynote speaker Anthony Muhammad to Coeur d’Alene to speak with the area’s teachers. Anthony Muhammad believes that the gifted and talented programs, advanced placement programs and current grading methods are inherently racist and segregates black and brown students based on the idea that the color of a student’s skin determines their grading outcome. Feel free to buy his book “Beyond Conversations About Race” from the Solution Tree website which will help the reader “recognize the presence of systemic racism in schools” and “develop classrooms, schools, and districts into safe, anti-racist educational strongholds and promote positive learning experiences for marginalized students.”
These are the organizations who are “training” our teachers using funds that were supposed to go to students. What are we to think when the school district wants even more funds through in perpetuity levies that will not hold the administration accountable?
The CDA School District purportedly spends $8,050 per student, and if there are a minimum of 20 students per class then hypothetically each class should have $161,000 to spend. In our hypothetical situation, the school maintenance and administration also need to be included in these funds so if a teacher sets aside $61,000 for building maintenance and operations, that would give each teacher $100,000 to spend. The average teacher makes less than $50,000 so if they pay themselves $70,000 for their own salary (which that cost would include the benefits), they would still have $30,000 to spend on the curriculum and classroom supplies for their students.
That is a great hypothetical but it’s just that: a hypothetical. Right now teachers are asking for help to buy basic classroom supplies, the paint is peeling off the walls, and the carpets are worn down to threads. Where is all the money going?
A main component of rating how well a school district is doing is by the test scores. The CDA School District routinely tests students through the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and the most recent data is from 2022. The proficiency rate of high schoolers taking the ISAT are: English Language Arts – 64.2%, Math – 32.4%, Science – 49.0%. These are high schoolers’ scores. These are the children that should be at the end of their school career, about to become adults and let out into the world, but less than half are proficient in their basic courses. Mind you, the school district asks for more and more money for each levy and the test scores keep going lower and lower. (Stats from the Idaho Education Report Card.)
Recently there was an uproar in another school district about parents who found out that the school board was trying to pass transgender policies, modeled after Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA) Policy 3281, that would allow students of the opposite sex into bathrooms based on the child’s “preferred gender.” Coeur d’Alene School District does not have the official Policy 3281 on record, but they do have “guidelines” about transgender bathrooms that have been set in place since 2014. Official policies are voted on by the board and listed on the website, guidelines are like unofficial procedures on how to handle things, not listed on the website. Guidelines include staff being required to call a student by their preferred names and/or pronouns, students being permitted to participate in PE and sports in accordance with the student’s gender identity, and that transgender students should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that “conflicts with the student’s gender identity.” Superintendent Shon Hocker recently emailed a parent stating that if their daughter was uncomfortable with transgender students in the same locker room as she, then she will have to go to staff to make different accommodations for herself.
Because guidelines are not listed on the CDA Schools website, you can read the full transgender guidelines as well as the history of how it came to Coeur d’Alene here: kcspectator.com/post/cdaschoolsgenderguidelines.
New Development: these school guidelines just became a problem in an incident at Coeur d'Alene High School on March 7. Read an overview of the situation here: kcspectator.com/post/signthepetitionsb1100
Counselors Hiding Topics from Parents
In December 2020 it came out that a counselor at Northwest Expedition Academy in the CDA School District was actively trying to perpetuate a child’s mental instability into transgenderism without the mother’s knowledge of the situation. The child had recently lost her military father while he was deployed and was seeing the school counselor to help her work through this tragedy. The counselor started using those child’s feeling and coaching her into believe she was a boy and that she should undergo genital mutilation surgery. The counselor, with the knowledge of the school administrators, started calling her a boy and were helping her how to tell her mother that she was transitioning into a boy. Through a recorded phone call between the mother and the counselor, the counselor admitted that they were doing all this coaching without the parent’s consent and behind the mother’s back. No repercussions came to this counselor, the administration or the district, and although this one incident was captured on audio there are many more incidents just like this that have slipped through, funded by taxpayer money.
To listen to the recorded phone call and find more information about this incident, visit massresistance.org/docs/gen4/20d/Idaho-MR-grandmother-vs-trans-counseling/index.html
Previous levy failed and the CDA School District magically found $5M in the budget for deferred maintenance
In August 2022, the CDA School District tried to pass a School Plant Facilities Levy (SPFL) worth $10 million per year for 10 years and the voters turned it down. The school district had tried to appeal to the emotional side of voters, saying that if the voters didn’t pass this levy then the schools will literally crumble around the students. The HVAC system at Coeur d’Alene High School needed to be replaced and if it broke during the school year then that entire wing of the school would be unable to be used until it was fixed. Parking lots need to be fixed and carpets replaced. Voters were already fed up with the lack of frugality from the district and the absent list of priorities that would show where this money would go so, the voters said no and the levy failed. All of a sudden the school district was able to f
ind $5 million to put towards the high school HVAC system and other priority projects, making voters scratch their heads wondering why this money wasn’t used before trying to get more. This March the CDA School District will again be trying to pass a SPFL levy in addition to the forever supplemental levy, hoping the voters will pass both at the same time.
How do these levies affect the average Kootenai County taxpayer?
The Coeur d’Alene School District touches the cities of Coeur d’Alene, Dalton Gardens, and Hayden. Don’t be fooled by the district talking points about the levy rate
is the lowest it’s ever been, which is technically true, but because the assessed property values have increased the amount each homeowner will have to pay will skyrocket.
On March 14 the school district is asking for two levies: another School Plant Facilities Levy worth $5 million per year for 5 years, and a supplemental levy worth $25 million per year forever.
The SPFL is a separate levy that the CDA School District is trying to pass to pay for some top priority maintenance they have let go too long and now they need more, separate funds to pay for things. Building repair, roofs, carpets, painting, parking lots, etc. The SPFL levy rate is $19.00/$100,000 assessed property value. If you have a home that was recently assessed at $1,000,000 (taxable) you will be paying $190.00/year for the next 5 years.
The supplemental levy is a levy the district asks for every 2 years for the taxpayers to supplement the holes in the budget that the state doesn’t fund. The school district sets their budget, the state gives them funding based on the average daily attendance rate, the district asks the community to pay the rest.
The last supplemental levy was in March 2021, The CDA School District asked for $20 million per year for 2 years. That levy passed with 60% of the vote and 9,711 people voted in that election. Taxpayers paid $76.17/$100,000 taxable assessed property value.
This March 14, the school district is shaking things up. They are raising the asking price to $25 million per year…..FOREVER. They want taxpayers to just pony up $25 million per year, without any more accountability to the taxpayers, forever.
Why? Inflation. Yes, inflation is an actual reason they gave for raising the levy price. Their dollars just don’t go as far as they used to and want the taxpayer to pay the difference. No compassion for the taxpayer who is ALSO dealing with inflation woes. No response to cutting their own budgets to deal with inflation.
Let’s do some math. The levy rate for this forever tax is $95.21/$100,000 assessed property value. That is a $19.00 increase from the March 2021 supplemental levy. If your property was recently assessed for $1,000,000 your taxes will be $952.10/year forever with no more accountability necessary for the school district to get their money. How much were you paying in taxes to the school district before? How much has your assessed property value increased?
Renters: don’t think you are getting away with anything because your homeowner is not going to pay increased taxes on your home out of the goodness of his heart. He is going to pass those increased taxes off to you, the renter, in the form of higher rent. How much did your rent already go up in the last few years? If these levies pass, prepare for your rent to increase again.
This is an overwhelming list of reasons why any logical person should sit back and do their homework on the CDA School District and their perpetual black hole of money. To quote Thomas Jefferson: “The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate.” It is up to you to do your research so that you can become better educated on the school district and the levies. Our children are the next generation of electorates, and now is the time to decide if the same old plan of handing money over to the school districts has succeeded in educating the next generation. It may be time to stop.
For more information about the levies go to CDASchools.org/levy or cdaschoollevy.com.