Democratic column: Vote to invest in Idahoans

Voting for candidates in the 2020 election who believe in investing in Idaho and Idahoans will help you leave our grandchildren a bright future in Idaho.

In Idaho, we treasure our public lands, our crown jewel, comprising 62% of Idaho. But our most important resource is you, our people, because only you can ensure the protection of our public lands and that other quality of life issues, such as climate change, are addressed. Idaho is only as successful as its people, and you deserve our tax dollars to be invested in you and your children. An honest look at the results of 26 years of trifecta Republican control of the governorship, state Senate and state House demonstrates the need for change. The statistics speak for themselves:

— The Idaho Republican Party platform demands state control of public lands, which puts our sacred public lands at risk, considering that 41% of our state lands have been sold.

— Idaho is dead last in per-student spending on education. Idaho spends only about half the national average on each child, and property taxpayers have been inequitably footing the bill for Idaho public education.

— Idaho is dead last in the combined rating of people completing bachelor’s degrees, its high school graduation rate, and SAT and ACT scores, damaging Idaho’s capability to have a skilled workforce.

— Idaho is dead last in early childhood education participation. Only about one-third of Idaho children attend preschool compared to 69% nationally. Sadly, only 25% of children living in poor households attend preschool, and these are the children who need preschool most.

Illustrating our lack of acceptable representation in our state government, the Idaho Legislature has ignored the importance of early childhood education. Early childhood education is a simple concept: The earlier the success in school, the greater the likelihood of success throughout life. In 2019, Idaho Business for Education championed a bill to start a state-funded voluntary school preschool. All states but Idaho and three others have public-funded preschool. Yet the House Education Committee, of which Reps. Barbara Ehardt (District 33) and Gary Marshall (District 30) are members, refused to even introduce this important bill. Ehardt actually testified that Idaho shouldn’t be spending taxpayer dollars on teaching 4-year-olds how to play, and Marshall has said, “All kids are ready for kindergarten.”

Their words and legislative actions hurt our children. One of the most effective ways to teach appropriate behaviors to young children is in play. Politeness, taking turns, waiting in line and other behaviors that defer gratification have been found to be even more important than intelligence for success later in life. Marshall made his comment to downplay the Idaho Reading Indicator results that 57% of Idaho children score below competency benchmarks for kindergarten instead of being propelled into action.

Your vote in this election can be an investment in Idaho and Idahoans by in turn voting for candidates including District 33 candidates Miranda Marquit and David Roth who will protect our public lands and view wise education funding as an essential investment in our people and our future.

Pat Tucker is chairwoman of the Bonneville County Democratic Party.