What started as a discussion about a distasteful mascot and stigmatizing mental illness quickly became a sad commentary about Idaho’s under-funded schools.

On Thursday, a House panel voted in favor of a vanity license plate featuring the Orofino Maniac mascot even though it is offensive to people who live with mental illness.

But the story wasn’t only the odious mascot. It was also the reason the people of Orofino seek the license plate: to raise money for their underfunded schools.

The Orofino school district is struggling to stay alive, passing multi-million dollar levies just to keep the lights on.

The district hopes money raised from the vanity plate will “assist with funding…a school district in desperate need of funds,” said Jill Woosley, Orofino city councilwoman.

Rep. Patrick McDonald
Rep. Patrick McDonald

Much of this was lost on committee members. Rep. Patrick McDonald (R-Boise) was more concerned about the Idaho Department of Transportation than he was school funding.

“There are 144 school districts…in the state of Idaho,” he said, “and if we had all 144 school districts apply for their own special plate, that could be an administrative nightmare for ITD.”

Of course, one way to solve this dilemma is to adequately fund education.

Dare to dream.