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Idaho View: Idaho sits in the back of the national classroom

This appeared in the Lewiston Tribune:

Face it, Idaho: You’re at the crossroads. Either you do something to address the state’s chronic early childhood education void.

Or you settle back and watch the rest of the country pass you by.


Idaho is among seven states that spends nothing toward pre-kindergarten programs. It relies on federal support for Head Start—which reaches about a quarter of the children who qualify—and the private childcare sector.

But according to the latest KidsCount survey, that left 69 percent of Gem State’s youngest children not engaged in some kind of quality learning in 2013-15—an increase from 64 percent in 2009-11.

In fact, KidsCount said this marked one of the few measurements of childhood well-being where Idaho lost ground.

Welcome to the rear of the national class, Idaho.

That 69 percent puts you 50th among the 50 states—down from 46th place four years earlier. By contrast, Washington ranks 39th.

Idaho has lost ground because it stood still while others have gained. Across the country, state support for early childhood education rose $564 million last year. For example, Utah stepped forward with a hybrid program encouraging private investment in pre-kindergarten through a “pay for success” model. Four years ago, KidsCount ranked Utah 41st in the percentage of its young children left underserved. Today, the Beehive State placed 33rd.

Magnifying the effect of Idaho’s pre-K policy—or lack thereof—is a low-wage economy that often requires both parents to work but still leaves quality childcare beyond their wherewithal.

When youngsters arrive for the first day of kindergarten, about 46 percent of them are not ready to learn. They’re not familiar with the alphabet, unable to count to 20 and may not fully understand colors or shapes. That can create a cycle of academic failure and frustration.

Or worse.

Earlier this year, retired Idaho 3rd District Court Judge Gregory Culet pointed to one common denominator among the people who appeared before him on felony charges: “They were not ready or prepared to learn when they started school.”

Helping those kids catch up is expensive and not always successful. Hence the logic that by intervening earlier, each $1 spent on early childhood education will reap a $7 return later.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter isn’t buying it. He has kept his focus on reforming what Idaho now has—K-12 and higher education—rather than expanding it. With 19 months left to his term, Otter is limping along toward lame duck status. Meanwhile, the political climate seems to be changing.

For instance, Senate Education Committee Vice Chairman Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, emerged from a 2015 seminar staged by the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy and the Andrus Center for Public Policy more amenable to the idea.

At an “informational” legislative hearing earlier this year, Lt. Gov. Brad Little—one of three Republicans seeking his party’s gubernatorial nomination—called the evidence in favor of pre-K “compelling. ... It’s a no-brainer that with a robust pre-K program, we’re going to have more kids prepared for kindergarten, and that reading proficiency at the end of third grade is going to go up.”

Idaho is following up on the Utah model, approving a law that would allow private corporations to invest seed money in early childhood learning.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation issued a three-year, $450,000 grant that will enable a steering committee of pre-K advocates to build public support for an Idaho program.

All of which led the National Institution for Early Education Research toward this optimistic view: “Idaho has been focused on the future.”

Maybe it is.

Maybe it isn’t.

Either way, keep your eyes on next year’s election and whether voters demand Otter’s successor shed the current administration’s lethargy.

Letters of Thanks

Thanks Times-News

Thank you Times-News for the coverage of the Southern Idaho Muzzleloaders’ rendezvous. All of our members really appreciated showing around your writer and photographer; hope they enjoyed it as well. The pictures brought out more people to see what goes on and wanting to throw knife and hawk or shoot while there. Some even showed interest in joining our club and shooting each month with us.

From Southern Idaho Muzzleloaders, great job.

Virginia Reed


Thanks, donors

Niche’ Assistance, a Twin Falls non-profit, greatly appreciates the individual donors and the local businesses helping us provide support and encouragement to struggling individuals trying to become more self-sufficient. Our sincere thanks to Ace Printing, Elevation 486, as well as PSI Waste Systems for their generosity in assisting us help numerous individuals in our community.

In addition, we greatly appreciated the individuals who donated to Niche’ Assistance during Idaho Gives annual event. We are grateful and appreciate the effort that Idaho Gives provides, not only for local assistance groups but numerous other ones throughout the state.

Phyllis Berg, president

Niche’ Assistance

Thank you for helping

A huge “thank you” goes out from Rising Stars Therapeutic Riding Center to Mychel Matthews, The Times-News, and KMVT for getting the word out to this amazing community about Rising Stars’ competing in the Lexlin Ranch Gypsy Vanner Gift Horse Contest. What an awesome job you did! Without you and this wonderful community, we probably would not have finished sixteenth in the top twenty winning riding centers. We will receive our new horse in July. All of us at Rising Stars so appreciate all of the community support we received. Thank you all.

Chris Dickard

Board Member

Rising Stars Therapeutic Riding Center

Refugee Day a huge suc


Magic Valley Refugee Day was a huge success! We express our sincere thanks to the companies and individuals who donated food and supplies to make this wonderful event possible. The refugee community appreciated the opportunity to share their food and culture with their new neighbors. A special thank you to those who joined us for an evening of great food and cultural enrichment!

Thank you,

Tara McFarland

Our View: Cheers and Jeers


Congratulations to Miles Daisher, Twin Falls’ best known BASE jumping ambassador, who early Tuesday broke the record for most jumps off the Perrine Bridge in 24 hours.

It’s an unofficial record, but it’s still a pretty big deal. Daisher was the first to set the record 10 years ago in a spectacle that garnered coverage from ESPN.

This time, a Times-News photo of Daisher’s first jump made the Wall Street Journal.

How cool is it that we get to live in a region where somebody crazy enough to jump off a bridge can do it anytime they like? Especially 63 times in 24 hours?

Daisher, who is sponsored by Red Bull, has made thousands of jumps all over the world, but he keeps returning to Twin Falls, where he and his family are never far from the bridge.

“It’s beautiful. It’s perfect. We’re so lucky right now,” Daisher said about halfway through his feat.

We couldn’t have said it better.


Temperatures rose this week, and so did the risk for fires. Blazes popped up all across the Magic Valley, and on Wednesday a fire more than 500 acres destroyed two outbuildings and forced some residents to evacuate near Wendell.

Fires start for all kinds of reasons. But nothing starts fires as often as people. In fact, the National Park Service estimates that as many as 90 percent of wildland fires are started by human beings.


Crews battle a brush fire Wednesday afternoon in Gooding County.

Campfires, cigarettes, the hot undercarriages of cars – even spent firearm casings have been known to trigger blazes.

Consider this a reminder to use extreme caution this summer. Our snowy winter and wet spring means there’s more fuel to catch fire. And with temps heating up, Idaho’s widely-known winds in action and people flocking to public land, we all must do our part to ensure we’re keeping our lands and our people safe.

And it that’s not motivation enough, consider this: The man who set fire to the Boise foothills last year playing with illegal fireworks was sentenced to jail and ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in restitution to the agencies who fought the blaze.


We love to share stories about teens in our community doing great work, whether that’s highlighting the most ambitions senior projects, or, at graduation time, profiling students who overcame incredible odds to find success. Not to mention the heroic athletic achievements we chronicle every day in Sports.

And then there are teens like Crayson Jenks of Twin Falls. He’s a Scout – and an Eagle Scout – who has done something so unusual it’s proved to be almost impossible for the tens of thousands – if not millions – of other Scouts who’ve been members of the organization since its founding more than 107 years ago.

Crayson, you see, has earned every single merit badge Scouting has to offer. Officials guess he’s one of only six or seven Scouts from Idaho to ever complete the feat. Fewer than 350 Scouts in more than 10 decades have earned every badge, and that includes Scouts in the early days who only had 89 badges to earn, not the 140 available today.

Earning the badges was a huge accomplishment, but the hardest part was actually planning the time schedules and staying highly organized to make sure Crayson would finish before his 18th birthday.

Some badges, he said, are easier than others to earn. His fingerprinting badge, for example, took about 12 minutes to earn. The bugling badge – one of the most difficult to earn – took Crayson four months to master the 15 bugle calls required to earn the badge.

Gallery: Boy Scout earns 140 merit badges

Despite all that planning and commitment, Crayson still cut it awfully close. He traveled to Utah (the only place he could find to scuba dive) just four days before his 18th birthday, the cutoff to earn the badges, to nab his last merit patch.

Congrats, Crayson, and may your accomplishments serve as inspiration for all Magic Valley teens with enough guts to set lofty goals and achieve them.