WestViews: Early education provides solid foundation

July 8, 2013 

Lewiston Tribune

The Gem State's kids are likely to have what too few children across the United States do not - a stable home headed by two parents.

The latest Idaho Kids Count survey says 74 percent of Idaho children are reared in two-parent homes, ranking Idaho second only to Utah. An Idaho child also has a greater chance of evading desperate poverty.

When it comes to a public commitment toward his education, the typical Idaho child suffers in comparison. Per pupil expenditures are ranked next to last. The share of Idaho's personal income devoted to public education has dropped more than 20 percent since the turn of the century.

So it's no surprise when Kids Count shows Idaho reading and math scores stagnating.

While the state has the ninth-best high school graduation rate, too few students go on to college and obtain a degree. Most glaring of all is Idaho's failure to launch early childhood education. Kids Count ranks Idaho 46th for the number of young children attending preschool.

Early childhood education is one of the best investments a state can make. Kids who are ready to learn go on to graduate from school and prosper in life.

When it comes to preschool, Idaho doesn't say no. It says Hell no! It's among 10 states that spend absolutely nothing on early childhood education. Head Start relies exclusively on federal support.

Idaho may get its second chance. The Obama administration wants $75 billion over the next decade to extend preschool to all 4-year-olds. Idaho's share would come to about $20 million a year, providing it's willing to kick in about $2 million of its own money.

Idaho's families are doing their part. To not build on this foundation is to deprive their children of opportunities they deserve.

TEA PARTY IS ANYTHING BUT A VICTIM

Post Register, Idaho Falls

Internal Revenue Service targeting of tea party-affiliated groups in 2012 stinks. The IRS has a duty to make sure nonprofit organizations with political leanings aren't violating their tax-exempt status. But even the Obama administration called the focus on groups unfriendly to it "inappropriate." Having said that, here's a reminder: The tea party, especially in Idaho, doesn't deserve sympathy. Not long ago, Idaho's largest tea party organization broke state law and violated privacy rights of their fellow citizens. In mid-March, the Idaho Legislature was debating whether to create a state-based health insurance exchange or leave it to the feds.

A majority, following the lead of Gov. Butch Otter, favored a state exchange. The tea party disagreed. It preferred to roll the dice with a federal exchange, hoping the resistance of enough states would somehow overcome an act of Congress, the president's signature and a Supreme Court ruling.

In March, Idahoans in all 35 districts received phone calls. A pre-recorded message encouraged recipients, including folks on the attorney general's Do Not Call Registry, to hold the line and be connected to their state representative. The anti-Obamacare message did not identify its sponsor or provide contact information, a violation of Idaho code.

So, what happened?

Nothing.

Seven targeted lawmakers asked Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office to investigate. Wasden's shop determined the law had been broken ... repeatedly. That law includes a $5,000 fine per violation. Multiply thousands of illegal calls by $5,000 and you begin to understand how devastating this could have been for the tea party movement.

Because the tea party changed its robo-call to comply with the law, and those calls were not "disseminated with an intent to steal consumers' personal identifying or financial information, rob consumers of their money, or to deceive them," the tea party got off with a warning.

So, while the IRS targeting of the tea party is indefensible, let us remember that not one conservative group lost its tax-exempt status. In Idaho, on the other hand, tea partiers broke state law, violated privacy rights and attempted to win an argument through harassment and bullying.

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