Why are you running for the Idaho House of Representatives?
As an Eagle Scout, I earned all three citizenship merit badges dealing with community, nation and world. I’ve been steeped in these principles and concepts and I will bring these to my representation of Caldwell and West Nampa, the citizens of District 10. I’ve always served my community, whether as a teacher, coach, volunteer, Sunday school teacher, or Scout leader. I believe that it is my civic duty as a citizen of this great country to contribute to the betterment of our community. I feel that. I own that. I take my citizenship in the United States of America seriously and strive to participate in our democratic Republic in meaningful ways.
I’m running because, after 20 years of poor legislative policy, Idaho is reaping what the Legislature has sown – a minimum wage economy – where Idaho owns the second highest rate of minimum wages jobs in the nation. Idaho is now dead last in per pupil investment in schools and family income. These facts are punishing and they are unacceptable.
As your representative, I will stand for improving our economy in responsible ways. I will stand for making sure that kids, schools and teachers receive the investment they need for Idaho’s economy to prosper. I believe in families and businesses thriving by working together. Idahoans want leadership they can trust. Citizens want a representative engaged in the hard work of representing them effectively at the Statehouse. I’m running to provide both!
If elected, what are your priorities?
Jobs and the Economy.
Idaho needs to grow good jobs, not just minimum wage jobs. Attracting corporate employers is difficult, so we must grow our current businesses and encourage entrepreneurs. Providing a stable tax structure is key to a quality business climate. A robust and high quality public school system is critically important to encourage employers to invest in Idaho’s communities.
Idaho needs good paying jobs so that our kids have the opportunity to stay in Idaho to work and raise their children (our grandchildren and great-grandchildren).
Caldwell needs honest representation in the Idaho Statehouse. We need to raise the bar here in District 10. Citizens deserve representatives who are accountable and mature in their personal lives before being elected to public office. Caldwell also needs representatives who act with integrity after the ballots have been cast. It’s time that Caldwell and Canyon County had a moderate, common sense, independent voice representing their views in the Capitol. We need a transparent government that is responsible and responsive to its citizens – and representatives that reflect our best qualities, not some of our worst. As your next elected public servant, I intend to restore honesty, accountability and integrity to Idaho House seat 10A.
A strong economy demands a robust public education system; we cannot have one without the other. Our current economic situation is ample proof of that!
Preparing students for college, career and the workforce begins with families and parents well before a child enters kindergarten. Because not all parents can offer a nurturing educational environment for their young children (especially with our state’s low wages), all children deserve optional, high quality pre-kindergarten learning opportunities – whether it’s public, private, religious, non-profit, online, home school, or some combination. High school students need more opportunities for internships, externships, volunteer work, job shadowing, mentoring, and college and career counseling.
Supporting strong schools is a quality of life issue. Schools, businesses, communities and families can all prosper if they work together. Investing in schools means investing in our children and investing in the future of Idaho.
What is your professional background?
I am a public school teacher by trade. I am entering my twelfth year as an English teacher. I am also a wrestling coach. My life’s work has been to help teens in a variety of capacities, from teacher to merit badge counselor, coach to mentor, referee to Sunday school teacher. I have spent my entire life growing our most valuable natural resource: our children. A strong public education system is the engine that runs our economy. Families move to particular communities not only for employment, but because of schools. Strong schools attract strong families, which has a reciprocal impact on attracting businesses. Idaho must capitalize on the connection between strong schools, strong families, and strong businesses. We have a great way of life here in Idaho that we need to keep reminding people about. Fundamental to my professional background is my work to nurture strong communities and grow the next generation of Idaho leaders.
I have mentored thousands of kids. Understanding one’s community from the sneakers-on-the-
pavement level on up has given me insight into the needs of Idaho children, families and businesses. I have followed the Legislature closely the last several years, including committees and subcommittees that have been tasked with improving public schools. I have worked with stakeholders to craft legislation to ensure transparency and accountability of for-profit education corporations. As a citizen and teacher, I have engaged in the larger political discourse by writing editorials and guest columns on various public policy issues in media outlets statewide. I have attended numerous public meetings, including sessions of the Legislature, and testified before school boards and Senate and House committees on state and local issues of concern. I follow local, national and world issues because understanding our complicated world is part and parcel to who I am. As a teacher, I am forever a student. As a concerned parent and citizen, I work to make Idaho a better place for all her citizens.
Why are you running as an Idaho Democrat? Didn’t you used to be a Republican?
It’s true that I used to be a Republican. But as the Republican Party has changed and narrowed in recent years, their platform has moved away from enough of my own values that I can no longer affiliate with their party. I am running as a conservative Idaho Democrat because Idaho Democratic values align more with my own. For example, like four-time Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus (also a Democrat), I am opposed to abortion. Unlike my opponent, Mr. Hixon, I agree there should be exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
I’m running as an Idaho Democrat because I value education and know that we must invest in public schools to grow our economy. From beginning to end, all kids deserve a solid public education. Legislators have failed here, and Gov. Otter has readily admitted it. The Idaho Constitution: “Section 1. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”
I believe that we need to grow our economy for Idaho’s working families so that people and small businesses can prosper together. Idaho is 50th in the nation in family income. And, we need accountable government that is honest with its citizens. The results speak for themselves – Idaho is not well served by the current “club” running state government.
I’m running as an Idaho Democrat because we must treat our environment respectfully and wisely use our natural resources, be it wildlife, mountain views, rivers, aquifers, oil and gas, etc. We cannot allow a small group to privatize our public lands, which would limit public access to the beauties and riches of Idaho. I believe that God gave us stewardship of the earth to use wisely in accordance with His plan,and, to cherish for future generations.
Won’t winning your House race take time away from your teaching?
Idaho designed a “citizen legislature” in its state constitution. We get the best results, the best laws and governance, when real working people – not just long-term politicians – participate as legislators. As an English teacher, I am assigned to teach Public Speaking classes to ninth-graders. Public speaking is a required class for every high school student in Idaho. Engaging in the political arena is a direct complement to my learning and professional growth and development as a public school teacher. As a Representative, I would speak publicly in a variety of situations and circumstances, experiences that I could draw on and from when teaching my students. As a candidate for public office now, I have many opportunities to practice the skills I espouse in the classroom. Importantly, I would speak in meaningful ways about the needs of schools in the Legislature as the education budget is the largest line item lawmakers face.
One of my heroes is Denton Darrington, R-Declo, Idaho. Sen. Darrington, a fixture in Idaho politics from 1982 to 2012, served 15 terms in the Idaho State Senate. Darrington, also a part-time farmer, worked at Burley Junior High School from 1966 to 1999 where he taught Idaho and American History. For 17 years as both a state senator and a teacher, he provided a remarkable legacy of public service in both arenas.
When I win this race, my school district will find a qualified, long-term substitute teacher who I will work with on a weekly basis to keep up to speed on my classroom and students. I will not “double dip” and take two separate salaries (teacher and legislator). I am not naive to the hard work ahead and the sacrifices in time I will have to make. I am currently enjoying the rigors of this race and will take that work ethic to the finish line and beyond.
As a teacher, you obviously didn’t like the 2011 “Luna laws,” so, how would you improve schools?
The “Luna laws” were education laws thrust onto the good people of Idaho without input from all stakeholders. The so called “education reform laws” were top-down mandates that catered to the larger movement afoot to privatize public schools. Good public policymaking engages all those people and industries that will be affected. The “Luna laws” did not do this. Unfortunately, my opponent, Mr. Hixon, favored the “Luna laws.”
A strong public education system is the cornerstone of our democracy. Idaho schools need improvement—there’s no question about that. Education improvement is complicated in Idaho because of high poverty rates, as indicated by the number of schools receiving Title I funding. Twenty percent of Canyon County receives food stamps. Only 27 percent of three- and four-year-olds in Canyon County attend pre-school; that means 73 percent of kids are ill-prepared to enter kindergarten. Poverty is a main contributing factor, along with many other factors, which the current elected leadership does not readily acknowledge.
Improving schools means utilizing peer-reviewed best practices and innovations as vetted by the practitioners and researchers in the classroom. It means increasing teacher involvement in curriculum decisions. Students must be prepared with the necessary skills for the complex jobs of the 21st Century. Schools, including universities, along with private industry, need to partner more to streamline this important transition from school to work and career. Older students need opportunities for technical internships. We need to use multiple measures to assess student achievement—high-stakes tests that penalize schools, kids and teachers are ineffective. We need multiple measures to examine teacher and school effectiveness as well.
Importantly, we need optional, high quality pre-school, funded through various different avenues, be it public, private, non-profit, and delivered online, homeschool or otherwise, or some combination of these – parents need to engage their children in early literacy and learning. Early education is too valuable for it to be unavailable to schools and families. Idaho should help parents be the first teachers and greatest supporters of their children’s education. It is the parent’s responsibility to teach their young children, so let’s support them. Schools that struggle need additional resources, not less. We must improve the political climate in this state to attract and retain good teachers. Currently, many teachers are retiring and leaving Idaho because the political environment and attitude by government leaders towards teachers, unfortunately, has been toxic.
We need to focus on the early signs indicating a student may likely dropout of school, and intervene. We need to clarify and simplify the college admissions process and make college affordable for more students. We need to improve middle and high school career counseling and preparation. Utilize online learning for children on a case-by-case basis, but don’t mandate it for every child. We must steer clear of one-size-fits-all solutions. Improving schools means communities must collaborate at every level. Teachers need peer assistance and review structures. We need to increase standards and expectations for certifying both teachers and principals so they have a year of supervised training before entering the profession. Finally, professional educators need the best professional development on a continuing basis.
Should you get the opportunity to serve in the legislature, what are some of the House committees you might want to serve on?
Environment, Energy and Technology (hazardous waste, sewage, recycling)
Education (public schools, colleges, universities)
Judiciary, Rules and Administration (courts, prisons, attorneys, juvenile justice)
Resources and Conservation (water quality/rights, fish and game, river restoration)
State Affairs (statewide policy issues such as elections, abortion, electric utility deregulation)