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Cheers and Jeers

Editor’s note: Due to an editing error, Saturday’s print edition of the Times-News ran a repeat edition of the weekly Cheers and Jeers column. Below is this week’s Cheers and Jeers column.

Cheer

House and Senate Democrats came out swinging this week when reflecting on this year’s legislative session.

On the session’s major issues, including two major tax bills, a trespassing bill and a new “stand your ground” law, Democrats say they were pushed aside.

More specifically, “Democrats were completely cut out of the room in those discussions,” said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise.

The same was true, Erpelding said, for the dual-waiver health care bill, which failed to even receive a vote on two separate occasions.

This is not a partisan issue. It’s an issue of making sure there is a diversity of ideas at the table. The same would be true of Republicans in a statehouse controlled by Democrats.

As Michelle Stennett, Senate Minority Leader said, “When you muzzle us, you’re not just muzzling Democrats — you’re muzzling the people who we represent.”

Idaho Democrats are in a precarious position as they try to be relevant in a solidly red state. Though we would like to see them be louder and take a stand during the session, when wrongs can actually be addressed, we do applaud them keeping themselves in the conversation.

As the minority, they should speak up when they feel their voices — which double as the voices of their constituents — aren’t being heard.

Jeer

Idaho has more than its fair share of education challenges. According to comments by some key education lawmakers this week, those challenges start at the top.

Several lawmakers called out state superintendent Sherry Ybarra for a lack of availability during the legislative session.

Clark Corbin at IdahoEd News has a full report on lawmaker’s comments, but they include House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden saying, “I think the superintendent needs to be at the Capitol more…Maybe engage with us,” and the only teacher serving in the Legislature saying he met with Ybarra just once all year.

Corbin also reports that Ybarra was not around for several key votes, including last week when the Senate voted on a second budget, and this week for a meeting of the state’s interim school funding formula committee.

Both Ybarra and State Department of Education spokeswoman Kris Rodine defended the superintendent’s availability, and Ybarra said she’s “constantly available and work(s) countless evening and weekend hours.”

If nothing else, it’s bad optics that lawmakers feel Ybarra is not pulling her weight. And they don’t just feel that way; they feel strongly enough that they’re willing to go on record saying as much.

In any line of work, breakdowns in communication are inevitable when employees feel that a fellow employee is absent or unapproachable. Lawmakers have made it clear they think Ybarra is both of those things.

Cheer

The Twin Falls Optimist Club is making a difference for people who have aged out of foster care.

On Thursday, the club hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for the Optimist Foundation’s Youth House, which will provide transitional housing for people who have aged out of the foster care system.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute, after reaching the age of 18, 20 percent of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless. Only 50 percent will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.

It’s fantastic that foster parents step up to the plate and take in foster children. But studies clearly show that once those children age out of the system, they are at a severe disadvantage compared with their peers. The system is not working for them once they become young adults.

The Youth House will go a long way in ensuring those kids aren’t kicked to the curb the moment they turn 18. Instead, it offers housing and necessary skill training so former foster children may eventually build their own lives.

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