Renewed Conversation This Month on Early Education

From Left to Right: Rod Gramer/Idaho Business for Education, Priscilla Salant/McClure Center, Idaho Reports co-host Aaron Kunz

From Left to Right: Rod Gramer/Idaho Business for Education, Priscilla Salant/McClure Center, Idaho Reports co-host Aaron Kunz

By Aaron Kunz

On the show this week I spoke with Priscilla Salant, director of the McClure Center for Public Policy Research and Rod Gramer, president of Idaho Business for Education about a conversation that is happening over early education in Idaho. According to Gramer, Idaho is one of 6-states that don’t have a state sanctioned Pre-K program.

In the report which you can read for yourself at the link below, there are roughly 146,000 children under the age of 6 in Idaho. While the report points out a lack of a comprehensive system to track this kind of thing. There could be as many as 83,000 children that live in homes where both parents work outside the home. While it’s unknown what kind of opportunities these kids have to develop essential skills that will aid them when they start kindergarten. We do know the Idaho Reading Indicator (IRI) shows that only 54% of Idaho’s kindergarten kids enter school ready to start reading at grade level.

On Monday May 4, 2015 – the McClure Center for Public Policy and Research based at the University of Idaho and the Andrus Center based at Boise State University will lead a public discussion about early childhood learning at the Riverside Hotel in Boise. The event starts at 8am to will run through 4pm and will include time for questions from the public in attendance. This conversation isn’t entirely aimed at Pre-K and it will include debate on funding from sources outside Idaho taxpayers.

You can read the Early Childhood Learning by the numbers at the report in the link below.

ID@G – Early Childhood Learning FINAL – single panel pages (04 20 15)

Watch the full May 1, 2015 Idaho Reports show here: http://video.idahoptv.org/video/2365480943/

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Attorney General Responds To Import of Spent Nuclear Fuel Criticism

A few weeks ago we covered two former Governors who voiced strong concern about a plan to import spent nuclear fuel into Idaho. Governors Phil Batt and Cecil Andrus say allowing commercial spent nuclear fuel into Idaho goes against the spirit of a 1995 settlement agreement under then Governor Batt. The agreement bans import of commercial spent nuclear fuel into the state.

The two at the center of this debate is current Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Governor Otter explained his position, saying the small amount of nuclear fuel under 150 pounds isn’t enough to be a problem. Adding that scientist and engineers at the Idaho National Laboratory in Eastern Idaho have the expertise to handle it safely.

This week we invited Attorney General Lawrence Wasden to explain how this deal is supposed to work. Here is what he had to say.

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Idaho Legislature to Tackle Environmental Issues in 2014

Gov.-Otter-Friday-3

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter took on three big environmental issues in his State of the State Address this week. Among them is a $15-million proposal to take a new look at water projects in the state. These projects could help create a new reality in Idaho’s southern desert.

Governor Otter: “My budget recommendation includes $15 million in one-time spending for specific water supply improvement projects from Mountain Home to Rathdrum and from Island Park to Arrowrock.”

The money would be used to look at the potential for a water storage project on the Weiser river and the expansion of  Arrowrock Dam just outside the Treasure Valley. There are plans to also look at building more water storage capacity in Island Park. If we broke ground on all these projects, the final cost would be into the billions. But could offer significant returns to Idaho farmers, ranchers and towns across Idaho.

Otter also gave a nod to wolf opponents by proposing to develop a committee to keep Idaho’s wolf population from growing. No longer protected under the Endangered Species Act, wolves in Idaho are being targeted by hunters and trappers under a state management plan. But wolves are still being blamed for targeting domestic livestock. Governor Otter announced a plan to help keep wolf populations from unrestricted growth.

Governor Otter: “I’m calling for establishment of a Wolf Control Fund and a State board to direct and manage it.”

The state of Idaho would invest $2-million as seed money, sportsmen and the livestock industry would help keep it going with $112,000 dollars annually.

The board would operate independent of Idaho Fish and Game. This didn’t sit well with conservation groups like the Idaho Conservation League.

John Robison: “We think this is simply catering to some anti wolf extremists and doesn’t represent sound fiscal policy or wildlife management. And is more of unfortunately an expensive political statement.”

Finally, Governor Otter reiterated his support for a state Sage Grouse management plan that is currently in the final month of public comment.

Gov. Otter: “I’ve been assured that Idaho will have a seat at the table in crafting a solution to the sage-grouse issue, and I will hold federal officials to that commitment.”

The federal government is trying to prevent further decline of the western Sage Grouse population. The plan which is currently in the final month of review includes two different solutions, one developed by the federal government that sets aside 7-million acres, and one by the State of Idaho with less land set aside, and is far less restrictive. The goal of Idaho’s plan is to continue stock grazing on BLM land and encourage the development of a high power transmission line through the state.

Idaho lawmakers may also take on an effort to turn over control of federal land to the state.

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State of Idaho To Take Over Privately Run Prisons

Governor Otter AP Preview 2014

By Aaron Kunz

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter announced this morning that he is urging the State Board of Corrections to abandon efforts to find a private company to run a prison outside Boise. Instead, the Governor is asking that the prison be run by state corrections.

Governor Otter said this in a letter sent to Corrections Board chair Robin Sandy. “After a thoroughly reviewing all the facts and issues, as well as the heightened level of judicial oversight of operations there, it is apparent to me that our goal of consistently successful day-to-day operations is better served at this time by the State of Idaho taking a more direct management role at ICC.”

The reasoning behind this change is due to multiple lawsuits by inmates and the American Civil Liberties Union. There has even been a criminal investigation into possible fraud. The Associated Press writer Rebecca Boone has been covering the privately run prison for several years. In an article published in November of 2012. Boone wrote about accusations that the Idaho Prison was overrun with gang violence. (Read that article here)

Corrections Corporation of America, a company based in Nashville, Tennessee had already said it wouldn’t bid to run the prison when it’s contract ends. CCA receives nearly $30-million from the state to run the 2,000 bed facility. CCA’s current contract runs out at the end of June.

Governor Otter told Corrections Board Chairman Robin Sandy that they should look for non-custodial areas of the prison to be privately operated. This announcement wasn’t too much of a surprise; Gov. Otter had indicated in 2013 that he was open to the idea of a state run prison.

This is just one of many topics we intend to delve into in our first episode of Idaho Reports that airs tonight on Idaho Public Television. I am personally excited to have been entrusted with hosting duties along with Melissa Davlin. We will be supported by two veterans to the show, producer Seth Ogilvie and director Ricardo Ochoa. This will be a fun and spirited legislative season. Hope you can be here with us. See you soon.

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