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Columns
Readers Comment: Community learning centers are vital to Idaho

Despite the recent Congressional resolution to fund critical educational programs through September 2017, 21st Century Community Learning Centers are still at risk. Recently, President Trump unveiled his proposed budget, calling on Congress to cease funding to 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a cut that will impact youth and families in many Idaho communities. Although, 21st CCLC and other critical education programs have been given a reprieve until the fall, Congress is still weighing pending budget cuts.

Idaho currently has more than 90 afterschool program sites supported with 21st CCLC funding. These funds establish community learning centers that offer out-of-school academic, artistic and cultural enrichment opportunities for children and families; particularly in high-poverty and/or low-performing school districts. Many of these programs are offered directly within our schools. Communities benefitting from these programs may not be aware that critical afterschool programs may not exist when their children return to school this fall.

Out-of-school programs, including 21st CCLC’s can be powerful. Research shows that consistent access to high quality out-of-school programming can close the achievement gap; improve academic performance; increase high school graduation rates; improve healthy activity and advance social and emotional adjustment. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office verified that these benefits are associated with youth who attend 21st CCLCs for at least 60 days or more.

By the time a child reaches the age of 18, they will have spent nearly 80 percent of their waking hours outside of the classroom. What we offer youth in our communities outside of the school day is just as valuable to their future as what we offer in the classroom. Further, when youth are left without supervision and structure, idle time can turn to less desirable activities. Studies also show out-of-school programs decrease substance use, teen pregnancy and juvenile crimes. A cut to 21st CCLC’s may cause an increase in these activities.

Loss of funding for these centers would also devastate working families and diminish an infrastructure in Idaho that relies on afterschool programming, especially in our rural communities. Over 38 percent of 21st CCLCs nationwide serve rural communities, but in Idaho that’s even higher sitting at 83 percent. Afterschool programming offered through CCLCs is essential in rural communities as many families often work away from their hometown and childcare centers can be scarce in these small communities.

As essential as these programs are, communities should never take federal programs for granted. This is a wake-up call. Parents, administrators, educators and youth connected to 21st CCLCs need to share the impact this program has on their lives. Consider reaching out to local and social media outlets or policymakers, especially members of Congress who are weighing this important decision. Cutting 21st CCLC programs will do little to the federal budget, it is less than .001 percent, but what it can offer youth and communities is priceless. To learn how to support 21st CCLCs or where they are located, visit the Idaho AfterSchool Network webpage, idahoafterschool.org.


Mailbag
Letter: Increase House reps

American politics is unhinged. I attended a congressional town hall and observed the degrading of representative governance. Congressional offices are input flooded with little detailed office response. This overload is the rule, not a particular representative's fault. Representing close to 800,000, representatives become the elites who supposedly have superior abilities to know what is best for the rest.

Citizens have become estranged, prefer complacency, and feel disaffected from the federal government. This creates a vacuum that is frequently filled by mobilized fringe interest groups and moneyed lobbyists.

The solution? Technology's rise is exponential and specialized. America could increase representation by adding House membership. It is not necessary for all representatives to convene in D.C. There could be six to 12 new federalized districts reducing D.C. from being a most destabilizing strategic target.

With one representative for every 50,000 citizens, local concerns are acknowledged, not turned over to distant bureaucracy. Presently, regional challenges are marginalized in the national dialogue. Specialized bipartisan subcommittees focused on health care, education, student debt, national debt, infrastructure, cybersecurity, immigration, etc. would be handled by 6500 "subcommittee" representatives.

Change is the constant. Americans could be the true enemy of indifference, widespread ignorance, and poverty for our finite world.

Gerald Weitz, D.D.S.

Viola


Columns
Commentary
Krauthammer: The guardrails can't contain Trump

WASHINGTON — The pleasant surprise of the First 100 Days is over. The action was hectic, heated, often confused, but well within the bounds of normalcy. Policy (e.g., health care) was being hashed out, a Supreme Court nominee confirmed, foreign policy challenges (e.g. North Korea) addressed.

Donald Trump’s character — volatile, impulsive, often self-destructive — had not changed since the campaign. But it seemed as if the guardrails of our democracy — Congress, the courts, the states, the media, the Cabinet — were keeping things within bounds.

Then came the last 10 days. The country is now caught in the internal maelstrom that is the mind of Donald Trump. We are in the realm of the id. Chaos reigns. No guardrails can hold.

Normal activity disappears. North Korea’s launch of an alarming new missile and a problematic visit from the president of Turkey (locus of our most complicated and tortured allied relationship) barely evoke notice. Nothing can escape the black hole of a three-part presidential meltdown.

— First, the firing of James Comey. Trump, consumed by the perceived threat of the Russia probe to his legitimacy, executes a mindlessly impulsive dismissal of the FBI director. He then surrounds it with a bodyguard of lies — attributing the dismissal to a Justice Department recommendation — which his staff goes out and parrots. Only to be undermined and humiliated when the boss contradicts them within 48 hours.

Result? Layers of falsehoods giving the impression of an elaborate cover-up — in the absence of a crime. At least Nixon was trying to quash a third-rate burglary and associated felonies. Here we don’t even have a body, let alone a smoking gun. Trump insists there’s no there there, but acts as if the there is everywhere.

— Second, Trump’s divulging classified information to the Russians. A stupid, needless mistake. But despite the media hysteria, hardly an irreparable national security calamity.

The Israelis, whose asset might have been jeopardized, are no doubt upset, but the notion that this will cause a great rupture to their (and others’) intelligence relationship with the U.S. is nonsense. These kinds of things happen all the time. When the Obama administration spilled secrets of the anti-Iranian Stuxnet virus or blew the cover of a double agent in Yemen, there was none of the garment-rending that followed Trump’s disclosure.

Once again, however, the cover-up far exceeded the crime. Trump had three top officials come out and declare the disclosure story false. The next morning, Trump tweeted he was entirely within his rights to reveal what he revealed, thereby verifying the truth of the story. His national security adviser H.R. McMaster floundered his way through a news conference, trying to reconcile his initial denial with Trump’s subsequent contradiction. It was a sorry sight.

— Is it any wonder, therefore, that when the third crisis hit on Tuesday night — the Comey memo claiming that Trump tried to get him to call off the FBI investigation of Michael Flynn — Republicans hid under their beds rather than come out to defend the president? The White House hurriedly issued a statement denying the story. The statement was unsigned. You want your name on a statement that your boss could peremptorily contradict in a twitter-second?

Republicans are beginning to panic. One sign is the notion now circulating that, perhaps to fend off ultimate impeachment, Trump be dumped by way of 25th Amendment.

That’s the post-Kennedy assassination measure that provides for removing an incapacitated president on the decision of the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet.

This is the worst idea since Leno at 10 p.m. It perverts the very intent of the amendment. It was meant for a stroke, not stupidity; for Alzheimer’s, not narcissism. Otherwise, what it authorizes is a coup — willful overthrow by the leader’s own closest associates.

I thought we had progressed beyond the Tudors and the Stuarts. Moreover, this would be seen by millions as an establishment usurpation to get rid of a disruptive outsider. It would be the most destabilizing event in American political history — the gratuitous overthrow of an essential constant in American politics, namely the fixedness of the presidential term (save for high crimes and misdemeanors).

Trump’s behavior is deeply disturbing but hardly surprising. His mercurial nature is not the product of a post-inaugural adder sting at Mar-a-Lago. It’s been there all along. And the American electorate chose him nonetheless.

What to do? Strengthen the guardrails. Redouble oversight of this errant president. Follow the facts, especially the Comey memos. And let the chips fall where they may.

But no tricks, constitutional or otherwise.