Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Rally for School Choice

  • by Nishant Mohan

Idaho Public Radio

State Capitol Bureau

During “Education Week” at the Idaho State Capitol, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra requested a 7.5% increase in the public education budget, bringing the total request to $1,577,904,100.  Idaho’s eight colleges and universities presented their budget proposals to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee and updated the legislature’s education committees on their activities.

But also during “Education Week” a rally for school choice was held on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol.

SchoolChoice

(School Choice rally on January 27th. Photo by Nishant Mohan)

Parents, their children, educators, and lawmakers showed up for the rally sporting matching yellow scarves and signs, some of which read, “I trust parents.” The rally was  in support of private schools as well as public charters and traditional public schools.

Marvin Winter, who attended the private school Grace Lutheran and whose granddaughter attends American Heritage Charter School, said he supports school choice because of the variety of focuses it allows schools to have.

“I believe it’s a good idea to have a choice for different schools, not that public education is bad or good,” Winter said.

Jenny Ball, parent of three children in the Blackfoot Charter, said she likes the fewer but longer class periods and the smaller class size.

But Ball said she was also in support of something many others at the rally were there to support – a “money follows the student” model to support private schools. This could come in the form of a voucher system, a tax credit or specialized scholarships and the degree of state involvement on standards varies depending on who you ask.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said she supports this model and would like to see legislation on the table.

“I support the parents’ right to choose,” Ybarra said. “It’s not about what’s best for adults, it’s about what’s best for children.”

Rep McCrostie, a traditional public school teacher, said he supports the concept of charter schools but questions the background of some of the charter schools in Idaho. He said he would definitely oppose a voucher system.

“If you have a private school with a religious structure behind it, if we’re taking public tax dollars and putting them in those kinds of settings, I think that’s dangerous and I think it treads upon separation of church and state.”

Ybarra said she is not concerned that funding for education will end up in the wrong place.

“As the Superintendent of Public Instruction, it’s important that I know exactly where the money is going – that it goes directly to our students in Idaho,” she said.

“I think Idaho has a good system that allows for parents to have choices,” District 1 State Sen. Shawn Keough said. “We are permissive and supportive of home schooling, we have a state-sponsored charter school program, we have private schools, and we have public schools.”

Keough said Idaho has fewer requirements on home schooling than nearby states like Washington and that she supports those freedoms because of the robust home schooling population they have created.

“To me it comes down to whether or not that takes away funding for our public schools,” Keough said. “If the funding for that, whether it’s vouchers or tax credit, would jeopardize funding for the public K-12 system, then I would not be supportive.

“Our constitution requires us to have a public K-12 school system and provide an opportunity for every child to get an education in Idaho and that is our first and foremost responsibility as a legislature,” Keough said.

Posted January 31, 2016, re-edited February 1, 2016

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Idaho Legislature: Education Week

by Taylor Nadauld

Idaho Public Radio

State Capitol Bureau

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced plans to make both K-12 and post-secondary education Idaho’s top priorities this legislative session, calling for a 7.9 percent increase in public school funding, including over $38 million toward the teacher career ladder.

But many legislators are doubtful his goals will be met this year.

Senator Jim Guthrie (R), District 28, and a member of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee said the governor’s education budget is “pretty aggressive,” and said some legislators are wondering if it needs to be tempered a bit.

On Thursday, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, Sherri Ybarra, asked JFAC for a 7.5 percent increase in public education funding – slightly lower than the governor’s proposal.

IMG_2041Sen. Guthrie said he would be glad to meet the governor’s education budget recommendations, but said the legislature has other programs it must budget for as well, including an extra 27th payroll the state must pay its employees this year, as opposed to the typical 26 – an addition that happens every 11 years.

Sen. Guthrie said higher education institutions should be obligated to plan for that just like the state has to.

“I think that higher ed is appreciative of the governor’s recommendations, but you know, they still ask for more,” Sen. Guthrie said.

Senator Steve Bair (R), District 31, was more hopeful for the governor’s K-12 education goals than post-secondary education.

“By and large – the commitments that we’ve made to K-12 – I think the legislators are going to stand behind those and make those appropriations and get us back to where we’re healthy again with K-12,” Sen. Bair said.

Bair praised the governor’s proposal to fund the teacher career ladder, and said he is very supportive of increasing operational funding for schools.

Representative Kelley Packer (R), District 28, also expressed reservation about the governor’s proposal, saying the state has other priorities in addition to education.

“I loved it,” Sen. Packer said of the governor’s education budget. “I just think he went a little overboard.”

Rep. Packer said the state needs to have deficiency warrants in place in case of emergencies such as wildfires, which cost the state over $60 million in 2015.

Packer praised the governor’s proposal to fund the teacher career ladder.

The comments came during “Education Week,” a week dedicated to Idaho’s public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities in the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) and the House and Senate Education Committees.

Boise State University particularly made its presence known on Tuesday, as flags sporting the school’s logo were staked outside the Capitol, and students gathered with presentations in the rotunda.

Governor Otter officially declared the day, January 26, “BSU Day.”

Dr. Bob Kustra, president of BSU, asked JFAC for more funding for the university. He cited the school’s relatively high rate of distribution of bachelor degrees compared to the rest of Idaho’s higher ed institutions.

“Let’s put the money where the students are,” Kustra said.

Representatives from Idaho State University, the University of Idaho, Lewis and Clark State College, and Idaho’s community colleges – North Idaho College, College of Western Idaho, and College of Southern Idaho – also presented to JFAC and the Senate and House Education Committees to present statistics and goals, and petition for more funding.

Major priorities for the UI include Complete College Idaho, the statewide program which supports efforts to increase the number of high school graduates moving on to higher education; five additional seats in the WWAMI medical education program to enhance Idaho’s medical program; and occupancy Funding and Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center: these requests are for maintenance of teaching and learning and research facilities, and the recently opened Idaho Law and Justice Learning Center located near the State Capitol.

“I think they do themselves a great disservice in front of that committee by not addressing their direct financial needs and fleshing out the governor’s recommendations and explaining why they think they’re a good idea rather than just saying they support them,” Sen. Bair said.

Hispanic student recruitment was a recurring theme throughout the week as committee members questioned the racial diversity of Idaho university student bodies.

UI President Chuck Staben said the school is trying to diversify its student body to represent racial populations of the state, but said UI has not yet reached that goal.

Overall, every college president commended the governor for his proposed education budget, including a proposed tuition lock, and additional funding for Idaho’s STEM programs, as well as scholarships and literacy programs.

Posted January 31, 2016

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U-Idaho To Close Caine Veterinary Center

The University of Idaho announced Wednesday it will close the Caine Veterinary Teaching Center this year and try a new approach. Nine staff positions will be affected. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:58)

Listen:

The Caine Center opened near Caldwell in 1977 as part of the regional veterinary education program, but the UI will close that facility by the end of this year and instead shift faculty to locations around the state, including Moscow, Salmon, and a new location in Caldwell.

Agricultural and Life Sciences Dean John Foltz says changing times in the livestock industry and veterinary education mean the UI has to adapt to new ways to better prepare students.

John Foltz: Our thought is that it will put the veterinarians, and the blocks of students that they work with, closer to the producers and the operations that they need to work with.”

That’s Foltz speaking to the Idaho Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee meeting Wednesday.

In a press release Wednesday, the UI said the decision to close the Caine Center also reflects a refocusing of resources over the past decade away from animal research and diagnostic services in Caldwell.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

On the web:

Caine Center

http://www.cainecenter.uidaho.edu/

Posted January 27, 2016

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U- Idaho: $1.1 Billion Impact

A new study says the University of Idaho contributes $1.1 billion to the state. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (:52)

Listen here:

The study was done by EMSI, Economic Modeling Specialists International, and it says the university’s $1.1 billion impact in FY 2013-14 was through consumer spending, research, business start-ups, among other factors.

EMSI says the $1.1 billion total represents 1.9% of the state’s economy and is up from just under a billion in 2012.

The university makes its annual budget pitch to the state legislature’s budget writing committee on Wednesday. Ui President Chuck Staben says specific university funding requests will focus on enhancing the university’s teaching and research missions, and he says he’ll advocate for other needs, including maintenance and operation funds for facilities such as a new Aquaculture Research Institute laboratory.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

On the web:

EMSI Study

http://www.uidaho.edu/president/news/economic_impact

Posted January 26, 2016

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Expanded Coverage: Capitol Activism

by Nishant Mohan

State Capitol Bureau

Idaho Public Radio

 

The Idaho State Legislative session is a time of year when we see many rallies on the Capitol steps in support or opposition of legislation.

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(Nishant Mohan photo)

The first of the season’s rallies was held by Serra Frank on New Year’s Day in support of marijuana legalization.

She planned to light up in an act of civil disobedience, but the police wouldn’t let her, intervening before she could open her little black bag. She said she was ok with that and that it saved her another criminal charge.

Instead, police sequestered her to a room in the capitol – no handcuffs or dramatic arrests. She left with citations for possession of marijuana and paraphernalia and was happy to pose with them for reporters.

Representative Rich Wills said he is against marijuana legalization and expects he will oppose such legislation if it comes up.

Representative Sage Dixon also said he expects he would oppose legislation to legalize marijuana but that he would be willing to look at legislation legalizing for strictly medical use

The weather didn’t stop the protesters at the marijuana rally, nor did it stop the protesters at the next rally a couple weeks later, which had a much larger turnout despite rain.

This protest was part of Add the Words Idaho, a campaign to add the words sexual orientation and gender identity to Idaho’s civil rights act.

A few hundred protesters gathered with umbrellas and raincoats, some of them rainbow themed.

This time, the protesters voiced dismay about rumors of compromise legislation being prepared by Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill.

“We must show politicians in this statehouse that we won’t compromise on human rights,” Rep Melissa Wintrow said at the rally.

“I’d call it a balanced approach,” Pro Tem Brent Hill said. “Many other civil rights issues are not considered a threat to peoples’ religious principles and this is in some cases.”

Add the Words Chairperson Lisa Perry said legislators have not included her group in policy discussions.

“We have not seen this proposed bill and we have not been asked our position on it,” Perry said.

Hill said he is only working with fellow senators on the project at the moment, though he is working with senators on both sides of the issue. He said he has not discussed the legislation with stakeholders on either side and does not intend to include them any time soon.

“Since the hearing last session, many legislators have recognized the problem is real, people have real concerns and real fears, and I say that on both sides.”

The next group of protesters also spoke about being left out of conversations that concern them.

“We see this over and over again in our state that students are left out of the conversation,” organizer Bill Moran said.

This protest did not have the the turnout Moran hoped for – it was only about 40 people though the weather was actually favorable for this one – but they went on and spoke anyway about a ballot initiative to lower tuition by raising cigarette taxes.

“We have the dynamic where we have the lowest wages in the country, we have our kids paying more here than at UCLA, and we wonder why only half of our kids go to college, why 4 out of 10 more drop out part way through, usually because they run out of financial aid,” Moran said.

One student at the rally, Jessica Bueller, said does not think Idaho is the place for her to pay off the loans she taken out to be able to attend Boise State University.

“After I graduate, I will be moving back to Washington for much higher pay,” Bueller said.

Keeping college graduates and a well-trained workforce  in idaho has become a common subject in the statehouse. Governor Otter continues to push a goal of 60% of high school graduates earning additional education, while legislators deal with how to employ those people. Education committees deal with attracting and retaining public school teachers to fight a shortage while CEC discusses whether salary or benefit increases will better lower employee turnover.

This protest was a little quiet with the small turnout, but another was a purposefully silent protest against a presentation by Christopher Holton and Shahram Hadian, who urged lawmakers and the public to oppose the Refugee Resettlement Program.

Among the protesters were Muslims, immigrants and refugees as well as sympathizers including Christian pastors opposed to Hadian and Holton’s views and presence in the statehouse.

Representative Sage Dixon said his constituents have mixed opinions on refugee resettlement. He said Sandpoint is a more liberal place than the rest of his district, and that that difference creates tension on the issue.

“Ninety percent of what I hear is concern with them coming in en masse,” Dixon said. “Individual families that have support – that’s how our system should work.”

But Dixon said there is also concern among his constituency of being perceived statewide and nationally as being racist. He said reputation is important to his region of the state where tourism is such an important part of the economy.

“I don’t expect I will support it,” Dixon said. “I don’t think there can be a compromise.”

He said he does not think the state should afford protection to any special group.

Protesters have come out for a great variety of causes this session and have come in a variety of shapes and colors – and sizes. There were some miniature activists with smaller, but more colorful signs, getting on a school bus after a presumably successful day of civic engagement.

Posted January 24, 2016

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Ag, Water Issues: House Ag Cmte Update

by Taylor Nadauld

State Capitol Bureau

Idaho Public Radio

Agriculture and water remain a hot button issue this legislative session as Idaho legislators continue to reform laws protecting land and research.

IMG_2760

The House Agricultural Affairs Committee approved dockets that would reform Trichomoniasis testing, bean planting rules, and add two new species to the Noxious Weed List among other business this week.

Scott R. Leibsle, Deputy State Veterinarian at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture in Boise, presented eight dockets to the committee on Wednesday, the most significant being a proposal to reform Trichomoniasis (Trich) testing in Idaho.

The rule would harmonize Trich testing regulations for all western states, as recommended by the Western States Livestock Health Association.

It would affect rules governing importation of animals, as the accepted age of virgin bulls imported to Idaho would change to 18 months from 12 months.

The rule would also change the validity of Trich tests to 60 days from 30 days; acceptable tests would include culture or polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and it would remove a 48 hour sample submission deadline for testing.

Leibsle also proposed two new species be added to the Noxious Weed List: Iberian starthistle and Purple starthistle.

In Fall 2014, the only known populations of the weeds were found in Twin Falls County. The Director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) listed the plants on a temporary list Early Rapid Response list. The new rule would make the listing permanent.

Assistant Majority Leader, Senator Chuck Winder (R), said water will also be an issue affecting agriculture in Eastern and South Central Idaho.

Sen. Winder said the legislature will most likely deal with aquifer recharge rules and create a budget to build projects that inject water back into the aquifers.

The House Agricultural Affairs Committee meets Even Days.

Posted January 24, 2016

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“Hashtags Don’t Start Movements”

Alicia Garza, the co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, told a University of Idaho audience Friday that hashtags don’t start movements– people do. Idaho Public Radio’s Glenn Mosley reports. (1:03)

Listen here:

Garza says she didn’t know what a hashtag was when she was posting on Facebook in the wake of the jury verdict which found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin. She discovered it was a way to keep the conversation going.

Garza says people started to share their experiences through social media and those pages became places where people could connect online to do something in the real world:

Alicia Garza: “Hashtags don’t start movements. People do. We can click like, we can share, we can retweet all we want. It’s not going to  build the power we need to change the conditions that we live in.”

IMG_9605

Garza says the movement doesn’t think that the ideal world is one where black people are on top and white people are on the bottom. She said that’s not transformation– that’s the same old, same old.

She says what they’re fighting for is justice.

Garza told the large University of Idaho audience that if we believe that all lives matter, then we’re going to fight for the lives that don’t currently matter, so that we can get to the place where all lives matter.

I’m Glenn Mosley.

On the web:

https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatter/

Posted January 15, 2016

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