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Savvy Idaho House member takes reins of Education Committee, pushes task force plan

What should you know about Julie VanOrden, Idaho’s new House Education Committee chairman?

She’s fair, smart and well informed, say Republicans and Democrats who know her.

“She’s a thinker,” said Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, the committee’s new vice chair.

VanOrden, R-Pingree, was appointed chairwoman of the House Education Committee this fall after former Chairman Reed DeMourdant, an Eagle Republican, did not seek re-election.

VanOrden comes to the chair after serving in the Legislature since 2013 and serving as the Education Committee vice chairman for two years.

The committee structure in the Idaho Legislature is the prime conduit for legislation. Rarely do personal bills introduced by individual lawmakers get very far. So who chairs the committees largely determines what legislation gets even a hearing, much less a vote in committee and, from there, a trip to the floor of the House or Senate.

In Idaho, paying for education makes up 63 percent percent of the state’s $3.2 billion budget. Here are four more things to know about VanOrden, who will play a high-profile role in decisions about Idaho education.

1. Job one: Improve education

VanOrden’s top goal: continue putting in place recommendations from Gov. Butch Otter’s 2013 task force for improving education.

Among those tasks: Put $57 million into boosting teacher salaries in the third year of the state’s career ladder aimed at attracting more teachers by raising teacher pay.

VanOrden works closely with Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, a former Bonneville School Board trustee who serves on the Legislature’s budget committee, tracking dollars to “make sure that we are funding things that need to be funded,” VanOrden said.

2. Considering school choice

School choice is likely to get more visibility with the nomination of Besty DeVos as President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, who has been a big advocate for expanding private and charter school choices in Michigan and elsewhere.

VanOrden supports school choice, which has an ardent following in Idaho where there are more than 50 charter schools. She’s open to discussing creating education savings accounts, a form of voucher, that would allow parents to use state education dollars in a variety of ways: “Whether it is services they need provided, tuition to a private school or even saving it up for college,” she said. “I think it is something we should investigate. I think there is interest in our state for it.”

But first, the legislative committee studying ways to change the way public education is funded must be allowed to do its work, she said. “Hopefully, in the end, we will have some tools to be able to offer those components on school choice.”

3. Room for early childhood education?

Pre-school education is important, VanOrden says. But it must take its place in the priority line. And she espouses the long-established line set by many other Idaho legislators: “We need funding for K-12 before we look into pre-K,” she said.

4. Post-high school training

Idaho’s goal of making sure that 60 percent of residents ages 25 to 34 get a post-high school certificate or diploma by 2020 appears to be slipping away. “I don’t know if we are going to make it by then. Certainly we are going to keep moving toward that goal,” VanOrden said.

She said the Legislature did pass a Pay For Success program a couple of years ago that could be used to help pay for early-childhood education programs or teacher education programs that demonstrate a proven record in the state for saving dollars or improving achievement.

She’s held conversations with lawmakers, noodling over an idea that would let pre-K students into public kindergarten. “I don’t know if it will happen this year,” she said.

Fewer than half of the students graduating from Idaho high schools are going onto college the next fall, according to the State Board of Education. To try to boost that number, Idaho colleges are wooing students by sending out acceptance letters to graduating seniors even before they apply to a state college and university.

This year, lawmakers made $4,125 available per student in 7th through 12th grades for programs such as dual-credit enrollment, which gets them high school and college credit as they work on their high school diploma.

VanOrden thinks some of the most effective programs to boost post-high school attendance come when parents, students and businesses sit down together in local communities and talk about job availability and the education students need to get those positions.

In eastern Idaho, some businesses arranged days to come to the high schools to meet with teachers, students and parents. “They had incredible turnout in small communities,” said VanOrden. “They said the biggest success was getting the parents out.”

Twin Falls school bond refinance saves $2.7M

TWIN FALLS — The Twin Falls School District will see $2.7 million in interest savings after refinancing a 2006 taxpayer-supported bond.

Fiscal affairs director Bob Seaman brought up the topic during Monday night’s school board meeting.

It was new information for some in the room, but the bond — which paid for constructing Canyon Ridge High School — was refinanced about two years ago.

Low interest rates spurred the decision, the district wrote in a statement Thursday.

The action came in 2014 as district leaders were preparing to sell different bonds after voters approved nearly $74 million to build three new schools.

The district and its budget advisory committee — which includes community members — are always looking for ways to save taxpayer money, spokeswoman Eva Craner said.

And employees are working now on savings options for other existing bond levies, Seaman said, to “get the most bang for the buck.”

The 2006 bond for $48.7 million is slated to run through 2026.

But there’s a possibility it could be paid off early as the tax base in Twin Falls continues to grow, Seaman said.

In addition to Canyon Ridge High — which opened in 2009 — money was used for projects such as building gymnasiums at Harrison, Morningside, Bickel and I.B. Perrine elementary schools.

“Every (school) location had something done,” Seaman said.

Besides refinancing bonds, the school district also benefits from the state’s Bond Levy Equalization Support Program.

Through the program, the district has received $3.7 million since 2007 to help pay back bond levies.

City seeks to fill P&Z vacancies

TWIN FALLS — Two positions on the Planning and Zoning Commission are up for grabs come January, and the city is now accepting applications.

Christopher Reid was appointed to fill Don Hall’s position on the City Council beginning Jan. 16. The other vacancy is the position currently held by Jolinda Tatum, who termed out.

If selected, commissioners will serve a three-year term.

Commissioners are responsible for reviewing amendments to zoning and subdivision regulations, and making recommendations to the City Council. Other duties include working on a comprehensive plan, granting special use permits, making decisions on appeals and authorizing variances.

The commission typically meets three times each month — A lunch work session on the first Wednesday of each month, and two regularly scheduled meetings on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month starting at 6 p.m.

Applicants must have been residents of Twin Falls when they are appointed, and should have lived in the county for two continuous years. They must continue to live in the city during the term of office.

If interested, submit a letter of interest with qualifications and contact information to fax it to 736-2641, or mail it to P.O. Box 1907, Twin Falls, Idaho 83303, by Jan. 17, 2017.

The mayor will appoint a commissioner with the confirmation of the Twin Falls City Council.

Impact Fee Committee seeks new member

TWIN FALLS — The city of Twin Falls is seeking to fill an opening on the Development Impact Fee and Improvement Reimbursement Committee.

It is for an “at large” seat and no development or building-related experience is needed, but members must live within city limits. Committee members serve for three-year terms and meet at least twice a year, more frequently if needed. Members are appointed by the mayor, subject to the City Council’s confirmation.

Duties include advising the city on the need to update or revise land-use assumptions, capital improvements plan and development impact fees; monitoring the capital improvements plan’s implementation, reviewing it, and proposing amendments and filing written comments; reviewing improvement reimbursement applications for approval; helping the city adopt land use assumptions; and filing periodic reports on the capital improvements plan, with any perceived inequities in implementing it or imposing development impact fees.

People interested in the post should submit a letter of interest by email to, by fax to 208-736-2641, or by mail to P.O. Box 1907, Twin Falls, Idaho 83303, by Jan. 17.

5th District Court News



Kevin Leroy Doane, 49, Twin Falls; possession of a controlled substance, $285.50 costs, $500 public defender, five years penitentiary, two determinate, three indeterminate, 51 days credited.

Dylan Tyler Tabb, 21, Kimberly; grand theft, $245.50 costs, $1,000 fine, $500 public defender, six months penitentiary, three determinate, three indeterminate, 38 days credited, 365 days retained jurisdiction.

Shelbi Marie Nunn, 22, Linn, Oregon; possession of a controlled substance, $285.50 costs, $1,000 fine, $500 public defender, $100 DNA, $60 workmans comp. program fee, six years penitentiary, two determinate, four indeterminate, 161 days credited, sentence suspended, 100 days community service, three years supervised probation.

Christopher Ronald Beadz, AKA Christopher Rte Beadz, AKA Christopher Huddleston, 47, Twin Falls; possession of a controlled substance, $285.50 costs, $500 public defender, $60 workmans comp. program fee, six years penitentiary, three determinate, three indeterminate, 27 days credited, sentence suspended, three years supervised probation.


Jacob Ivan Goodrich, 40, Twin Falls; DUI second offense, $1,000 fine, $1,000 suspended, $202.50 costs, 180 days jail, 175 suspended, credit for time served, guilty withheld sentence, 365 days restricted drivers license, 24 months supervised probation, attend victim impact panel and court alcohol school, interlock device for one year.

David Jesus Rojel, 24, Burley; DUI, $1,000 fine, $600 suspended, $202.50 costs, $50 public defender, 180 days jail, 177 suspended, one day credited, 16 hours work detail, 180 days restricted drivers license, 12 months supervised probation, attend victim impact panel and court alcohol school.

Siyavash Askari, 23, Twin Falls; DUI, $1,000 fine, $700 suspended, $202.50 costs, 180 days jail, 177 suspended, one day credited, guilty withheld judgment, 16 hours work detail, 180 days restricted drivers license, 12 months supervised probation, attend victim impact panel and court alcohol school.

Steven Howard Otero, 44, Twin Falls; DUI excessive, $1,000 fine, $500 suspended, $202.50 costs, 180 days jail, 175 suspended, 40 hours work detail, 180 days restricted drivers license, 24 months supervised probation.

Justin Frank Scherbel, 27, Pocatello; DUI excessive, $1,000 fine, $600 suspended, $202.50 costs, 365 days jail, 355 suspended, credit for time served, guilty withheld judgment, 40 hours work detail, 365 days drivers license suspension, 12 months supervised probation. Driving without privileges charge dismissed.

Jeffrey Michael Tyler, 31, Twin Falls; DUI, $1,000 fine, $600 suspended, $202.50 costs, 180 days jail, 177 suspended, one day credited, 16 hours work detail, 180 days restricted drivers license, 12 months supervised probation, attend victim impact panel.

Austin Craig Black, 28, Jerome; DUI second offense within 10 years, $1,000 fine, $600 suspended, $202.50 costs, 365 days jail, 355 suspended, two days credited, 32 hours work detail, 365 days drivers license suspension, 12 months supervised probation.


Fausto Moreno Espino v. Griselda Ruiz Hernandez

Brett Mitchell v. Jera Mitchell

Telesforo Dominguez Romero v. Alfoncina Reza Estrada

Katrina Porter v. Maximilian Porter

Mitchell McRoberts v. Richmond McRoberts

Caitlyn Smith-Young v. Kenneth Young

Jordan Ansley v. Macquel Ansley

Brittany Kolsen v. David Kolsen

Oscar Ibanez v. Julissa Ibanez

Gayle Brown v. Steven Brown

Stork report: births at St. Luke’s Magic Valley

St. Luke’s Magic Valley

Aliha Jenely Sanchez Ruelas, daughter of Hilda Leticia Ruelas and Marco Antonio Sanchez Arce of Jerome, was born Dec. 7, 2016.

Ethan Yarel Archila-Tamayo, son of Maria Del Rosario Tamayo and Miguel Angel Archila of Twin Falls, was born Dec. 8, 2016.

Richelle Josephine Tjaden, daughter of Joanna Patricia and John Michael Tjaden of Twin Falls, was born Dec. 8, 2016.

Ezekeal Adam Watson, son of Brook’lyn Dawn Carter and S Nicholas Watson of Gooding, was born Dec. 8, 2016.

Zebadiah Wayne Hampton, son of Nola Juliene and Dustin Andrew Hampton of Twin Falls, was born Dec. 10, 2016.

Jameson Louis Bevercombe, son of Amy Ann and Bradley Joshua Bevercombe of Wendell, was born Dec. 12, 2016.

Aksel Garcia-Aguilar, son of Fabiola Aguilar-Hurtado and Eduardo Garcia-Espinoza of Twin Falls, was born Dec. 13, 2016.


Brady Dickinson, operations and educational technology director, (second from right) talks during a tour of Rock Creek Elementary School in July 2016 in Twin Falls.


Christopher Reid speaks to the council during their meeting Monday night, Dec. 5, 2016, at the City Council Chambers in Twin Falls. Reid has been appointed to replace Don Hall who will be leaving the council to be a county commissioner.