Ron Nate, a faculty member in the economics department, is also a member of the Idaho State Legislature, and he is in the process of trying to change the Idaho State Constitution.
Nate said students should be aware of problems that could unfold due to Idaho’s constitution as it stands today.
“Neither the legislature nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian or whatever,” according to Section Five of the Idaho State Constitution.
Nate said students who receive scholarships or grants from the state are technically using this money unconstitutionally.
“Right now, there are students receiving the Idaho Opportunity scholarship that use it at state schools and religiously affiliated schools as well,” Nate said. “The problem is if that scholarship is challenged in court, it would not hold up due to the current amendment.”
Nate said he is proposing a solution stating that aiding students is not the same thing as aiding a religion.
“The amendment that I want to propose says that if Idaho wants to support students in their education, examples of this would be giving students grants and scholarships, and the student would like to use these scholarships at any private school affiliated with a faith, then that is ok,” Nate said.
Nate said the amendment is not only to benefit the students of BYU-Idaho.
“It will also benefit the students attending other religious-affiliated schools in the state of Idaho,” Nate said.
Katie Waldrip, a sophomore studying healthcare administration, said she thinks the amendment Nate is proposing is very important and will impact several students.
“Some of those students are only able to pay for school, books and food because of money that they receive from the state,” Waldrip said. “I think the students’ welfare should be the main concern of the state and not the faith they are a part of.”
As a member, Nate has served on the environmental, energy, technology, judiciary rules, administration and Revenue and Taxation committees, according to the Idaho State Legislature website.
Nate said this is his first time trying to adjust a constitutional amendment. However, he is receiving advice from professionals and other legislators he works with that have more experience.
“Right now, I have the support of the House and am working on getting the same support from the Senate,” Nate said.
Nate said this adjustment is important because there are many students who are benefitting a great deal from these scholarships and grants.
“I am very optimistic about the amendment, and am happy with the way it is moving along within the legislature, and if parents or students are interested and have an opinion, I encourage them to contact their legislators,” Nate said.
Heather Cusworth, a junior studying English, said she agrees with Nate.
“The money that is being supplied to the student at BYU-Idaho or any other faith-affiliated school is not going to the faith; it’s going to the student,” Cusworth said.
Cusworth said she believes the state of Idaho should be more concerned with the education of the student as opposed to the school’s money.
“It is unconstitutional for the state of Idaho to not allow students to use their money for school,” Cusworth said. “We have freedom of religion.”
Nate said Idaho voters who feel passionate about this topic or have an opinion on the Amendment being written are encouraged to write their legislative representatives.