BOSIE — The record-breaking partial federal government shutdown has pushed one Idaho congressman, typically known for maintaining a focused, thoughtful and laid-back style, into becoming a vocal critic of congressional dysfunction on all sides.
On Wednesday, Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson stood behind his words. He was one of just 10 House Republicans to break rank and vote in favor of a Democratic-lead bill to reopen the government. The legislation, which passed in a 234-180 vote, would fund the government through Sept. 30. New Idaho GOP Congressman Russ Fulcher voted no.
“Like all Americans, I am extremely frustrated in Congress’ inability to compromise,” Simpson said Wednesday in a statement provided to the Statesman.
And he has a message to Idahoans: “I am sorry for the failure of your elected leaders to fulfill their most basic duty. We are a diverse nation with many different viewpoints, but all Americans expect their government to continue functioning, day in and day out.”
Not only is Simpson frustrated by political posturing and petulance, but also by how the shutdown is directly affecting Idahoans.
“To Idaho, a shutdown means thousands of furloughs for government workers and contractors, a significant reduction in the work being done by the Forest Service to prevent catastrophic wildfires, and the added backlog to the deferred maintenance on our public lands and National Parks, to name just a few things,” he wrote in the Statesman.
“It is unacceptable to jeopardize the pay of our hard-working civil servants from carrying out their service to the American people. I understand the burden that this has created for many families, and I commend the men and women in our country are currently working with their pay withheld or who are furloughed.”
Since the shutdown began Dec. 22, Simpson has been the only member of Idaho’s delegation to consistently and publicly express his frustration with and concerns about it.
While speaking on the House floor on Jan. 11, Simpson chastised members of both side of the aisle: “The uncomfortable thing is occasionally as elected representatives we are called upon to lead regardless of consequences. And I have to say we’ve all failed. All of us. And for that I am very, very sorry.”
Since the shutdown began, Simpson has made numerous statements to national media, something for which he is typically not known to do.
Here’s are some of Simpson’s most recent and strongest statements:
On Wednesday, Simpson said he hopes the shutdown, now on Day 33, will end this week.
“Today, the House will vote on a package of bills that were negotiated last year between the House and the Senate, Republicans and Democrats,” he said in his statement. “Although it does not represent my preferred starting place for negotiations, I support it because it includes provisions that are important for Idaho that I personally worked to secure, including increased funding for sage grouse conservation, PILT, wildfire prevention and suppression, and a prohibition on listing sage grouse as an endangered species, among many others.”
While the other three members of Idaho’s all-GOP delegation, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and Rep. Russ Fulcher, have been relatively quiet about the shutdown in public, Crapo and Risch did join a group of Senate Republicans to introduce a bill to permanently prevent future government shutdowns. The End Government Shutdowns Act would keep the federal government open whenever key spending deadlines are missed by creating an automatic continuing resolution for appropriation bills or existing continuing resolutions.
“Shutting down the government is the complete opposite of what we were elected to do — govern,” Risch said in a Jan. 11 news release. “I have cosponsored this legislation year after year and hope we can finally move it forward. Real people with real problems get caught in the balance of government shutdowns and we need to act for them and for the sake of government efficiency. I would prefer a smaller and less intrusive government than what we have, but regardless it needs to operate.”
TWIN FALLS — Two weeks after Idaho Lottery officials announced a winning $1 million ticket purchased in Twin Falls, Mark Hubbs of Shoshone checked his ticket number. Sure enough, all six numbers — 220063 — matched up.
“I knew I had a couple of tickets with the 2200 as the first few numbers,” Hubbs said in a statement. “But that number just looked awfully familiar. But I kept thinking, it’s too good to be true.”
On Wednesday, the Idaho Lottery named Hubbs as the grand prize winner in the Idaho $1,000,000 Raffle. The announcement took place at the Maverik on Blue Lakes Boulevard.
“This is the location where the winning ticket was sold on Christmas Eve day,” lottery spokesman David Workman said.
Hubbs did not attend the check presentation and has said he would not be available for public comment.
“This is life changing money,” he said in the prepared statement. “I plan to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing. I want to do it right.”
The Maverik on Blue Lakes, meanwhile, was presented with a $20,000 check — a commission for selling the winning ticket. It appears that money will not necessarily be kept for the local store, but will go to the main corporation. This same Maverik also sold a winning $50,000 ticket several years ago, Workman said.
Hubbs isn’t the only Magic Valley resident to get lucky in this year’s Idaho $1,000,000 Raffle. Jay Purtell of Twin Falls also won $10,000 from a ticket purchased at the Oasis Stop n’ Go No. 8 at 515 Washington St. N.
The Idaho $1,000,000 Raffle is a statewide raffle that takes place once annually beginning in the fall, Workman said. The odds of winning the $1 million are 1 in 250,000.
“It’s the best odds we ever offer for any game,” Workman said.
Tickets are sold for $10 each until they run out.
“The game always sells out,” he said. “This year’s game sold out on Dec. 28.”
Hubbs had purchased his ticket during a “Buy one get one” Christmas Eve special on Dec. 24. Maverik store director Jennifer Evans said there was a big line that day. The tickets are sold in sequential numerical order and the Twin Falls Maverik sold 325 tickets during the entire game.
Tickets were selling so fast that day there were 10,000 to 12,000 sold statewide just in the time it takes to drive from Twin Falls to Shoshone, Workman said.
“I tried to buy one raffle ticket every 10,000 tickets,” Hubbs said. “But that day ticket sales were really fast, so after shopping in Twin, I stopped in to the Maverik there on Blue Lakes to get a couple more just in case they were sold out. It was the best decision.”
Since 2010, six of the last nine top prize winners from the Idaho $1,000,000 Raffle game have been sold at a Maverik store in Idaho.
The Magic Valley has had a grand prize winner in the game two out of the 12 years it’s been running. The last time was in 2008 when Gregg and Cathie Owen of Buhl purchased a winning ticket at Ridley’s Food and Drug the day before Thanksgiving.
More recently, a Rupert oman took home a $100,000 prize from the Idaho Lottery’s “The Whole Shebang” game. That ticket had been purchased at the Oasis Stop ‘N Go in Paul, which received a $10,000 bonus.
TWIN FALLS — Two-thirds of south-central Idaho’s high schools surpassed the statewide graduation rate for the class of 2018.
Of those that didn’t, many were either alternative schools — where some students take longer than four years to graduate — or small schools where the graduation rate can fluctuate widely based on just a few students.
The Idaho State Department of Education released the latest graduation rates Jan. 17. Statewide, the graduation rate topped 80 percent for the first time. In total, 80.65 percent of Idaho high schoolers graduated within four years in 2018 — up from 79.67 percent in 2017.
“Our graduation rates have been improving steadily, and the pace is accelerating,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a statement. “I am confident the pace will continue to pick up, thanks to hard work by our schools and districts and the intensive help my department now offers to lower-performing schools under our new accountability plan, which kicked in for the 2018-19 school year.”
The state is required to release high school graduation rates every year. For several years, it has used a cohort model — a federal calculation showing how many students graduate with a regular high school diploma within four years.
It counts some students as “non-graduates,” including some alternative school students, GED graduates, special education students who earn a modified diploma, and students who withdraw from school or transfer out of state without documentation. That has caused concern and criticism from local school leaders. For the first time this year, the Idaho State Department of Education is also measuring a five-year graduation rate, which includes students who graduate within five years. About 25 percent of Idaho students who didn’t graduate in four years returned for a fifth year during the 2017-18 school year, the education department said in a statement.
In Twin Falls, both of the traditional high schools had a 2018 graduation rate that far exceeded the statewide average.
Twin Falls High School’s graduation rate came in at 91.6 percent, while Canyon Ridge High School — which is home to the Twin Falls School District’s high school refugee and English language learners — was at 85.1 percent.
“As a district, we’re doing really well,” said L.T. Erickson, secondary programs director for the Twin Falls School District.
Magic Valley High School, an alternative school that takes in students from across the region through age 21, had a 30 percent four-year graduation rate.
“We know that Magic Valley (High School) is going to have a lower graduation rate because of the way it’s calculated and the purpose of the school to take on anyone who wants to graduate, regardless of where they start,” Erickson said.
At Magic Valley High, about 80 students graduated last school year — twice as many as the 39 counted under the four-year cohort rate. But if students took more than four years to graduate, they weren’t counted.
In Cassia County, all four traditional high schools have a graduation rate above 90 percent.
“Historically, our graduation rates have been above the state averages,” said Debbie Critchfield, spokeswoman for the Cassia County School District.
Cassia County’s alternative school, Cassia Junior/Senior High School, had a graduation rate — 41.5 percent — similar to other Magic Valley alternative schools. Jerome High School’s graduation rate is 77.5 percent, but that statistic can be deceiving. That’s because the school district has a small alternative school that’s essentially part of Jerome High — not a standalone campus.
The graduation rate among low-income students was around 70-71 percent last year, compared with 91 percent for other students.
“There’s a gap there,” Superintendent Dale Layne said. “We need to concentrate on that group of kids.”
Also, the graduation rate among special education students was lower than school officials hoped for, Layne said, adding that’s another group to focus on.
At Kimberly High School, the graduation rate was 93.3 percent. “Overall, we’re happy,” Superintendent Luke Schroeder said. “We’re satisfied with that.”
Ideally, the graduation rate would be 100 percent, Schroeder said, because there are so many more open doors for students who graduate from high school. Research shows the sooner educators can intervene with students encountering issues like poor attendance, academic struggles and behavior challenges, the better. “We want to start being more aggressive in our interventions,” Schroeder said.
Kimberly doesn’t have a large population of socioeconomically disadvantaged students or those learning English as a second language, Schroeder said. But both subgroups are above the statewide average for graduation and 100 percent of English language learners graduated last year.
Magic Valley school district officials say they’re glad to see the Idaho State Department of Education is now releasing a five year-graduation rate.
“We’re very fortunate they’re starting to look at that,” Erickson said. It’s important to recognize students who graduate in five years and count them as graduates, he said.
The Twin Falls School District has calculated its own five-year graduation rate for years. It also surveys high school seniors about their future plans and high school graduates for 18 months after they earn a diploma to learn where they go.
For alternative schools, measuring graduation rates using a four-year cohort is problematic, Critchfield said.
Ultimately, many of those students earn a high school diploma, she said. “If it takes a fifth year, who cares? It matters to the student that they completed it.”
If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.