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Charges fly, then fizzle in governor’s race

Here’s a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how charges flew – then fizzled – over the weekend as the Idaho Republican Party claimed that the Idaho Democratic Party and Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff were doing something “shady” involving passing money back and forth that might violate campaign finance laws. The Democrats responded that Balukoff had contracted out his campaign payroll services to the state party, and it was all reported, legal and on the up-and-up.

On Monday morning, the Idaho Secretary of State’s office looked into it and found no violation at all, instead concluding it's just “that time of year.” The state GOP now says it won’t pursue any complaint. Dean Ferguson, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, said, “I’m guessing they feel a little silly about it.”

Balukoff, a CPA and millionaire Boise businessman, is challenging Idaho GOP Gov. Butch Otter, a multimillionaire rancher, as he seeks a third term. The race also includes Libertarian candidate John Bujak, Constitution Party candidate Steve Pankey, and two independent candidates, Jill Humble and “Pro-Life,” who legally changed his name from Marvin Richardson.

Idaho drivers now slightly less likely to hit deer, but still above national average…

Here’s a ranking in which Idaho is improving: According to State Farm Insurance claims statistics, we’ve dropped from 26th to 28th in the nation for likelihood of motorists hitting a deer on our roads. West Virginia has remained atop the list in first place for the past eight years; Hawaii is last. Washington ranks 41st; Utah, 34th; and Montana, 3rd.

State Farm found that the odds of a driver hitting a deer on Idaho roads is now 1 in 172, slightly higher than the national odds of 1 in 169. Idaho’s top months for car-deer collisions are November, followed by October, followed by December. The company’s tips for avoiding such collisions: Use caution in known deer zones; always wear a seatbelt; watch out from 6-9 p.m., when deer are most active; use high beams when possible; and avoid distractions like cell phones and eating. If a deer collision appears inevitable, State Farm advises drivers not to attempt to swerve out of the way, as that could be even more dangerous. Here's a link to the full 50-state comparison.

Lawyers on both sides of Idaho’s gay marriage case to speak at UI event

In honor of Constitution Day this Wednesday, the University of Idaho will sponsor a statewide panel discussion on constitutional questions surrounding same-sex marriage. The discussion will start at 4 p.m. MT, 3 p.m. Pacific, at the Idaho Water Center in Boise; students and faculty in Moscow and Coeur d’Alene will participate through video links, and the program is free and open to the public. Speakers will include Deborah Ferguson and Craig Durham, the attorneys for four Idaho gay couples who successfully sued to overturn Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage, and Tom Perry, attorney for Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who is defending the state law.

Shaakirrah Sanders, UI associated professor of law, will moderate the panel in Boise, and Michael Park, assistant professor of journalism and mass media, will moderate questions and provide commentary in Moscow. There’s more info here. Past Constitution Day observances at the UI have covered free press and fair trial issues, leaks of government secrets, violent images in video games and federal drug laws.

Idaho GOP backs off from complaint over Balukoff and Dems’ campaign finances

The Idaho Republican Party now says it won’t pursue any campaign finance complaint against A.J. Balukoff, Democratic candidate for governor, or the Idaho Democratic Party over a payroll services contract. “If they can satisfy the Secretary of State and make that clear to them that everything is fine and dandy, then that’s good, and that’s ultimately what the purpose of our press release was about,” said Dave Johnston, Idaho GOP executive director. “We had received this complaint from several concerned people who brought this to our attention.”

He said the questions focused on the post-primary election campaign finance reports filed both by the Idaho Democratic Party and by Balukoff’s campaign, in which payments were shown but the GOP thought it wasn’t clear “what is what, and if it’s a donation or whether it’s a service that is being rendered.” He added, “If the Secretary of State is satisfied, we’re not going to go forward with it.”

Idaho Secretary of State says no violation in Balukoff payroll contract

Idaho Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst says there’s no campaign finance violation in the way Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff has set up his payroll services contract with the Idaho Democratic Party. “We talked to the Democratic Party,” Hurst told Eye on Boise this morning. “The way it’s working is Mr. Balukoff’s campaign actually prepays for the services. So he’s always ahead. There’s no violation of limits.”

Balukoff provides the money up-front, and then the party disburses it for his payroll. “It’s part of the contract that he has with the party,” Hurst said. “I don’t see a violation there.” He added, “It’s just that time of year.”

Of parties, payroll, and politics…

The Idaho Republican Party charged in a press release sent out late Friday night that Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff may be violating campaign finance laws by the way he handles his campaign payroll. The Idaho Democratic Party responded on Saturday with its own press release, saying the party has a contract with Balukoff’s campaign to manage payroll services and there’s nothing in the deal that violates campaign finance laws. “IDP’s contract has been carefully vetted by CPAs as well as compliance experts. We are fully confident in its legality,” party spokesman Dean Ferguson said in his release.

The GOP release suggests that “Balukoff isn’t paying for his staff,” and instead they are being paid by the party while Balukoff donates funds to the party to cover the costs. Jason Risch, attorney for the Idaho GOP, termed this an “abnormal shuffling of funds” and said he thought it could mean the Democratic Party was exceeding the $10,000 limit on contributions to a candidate, “including in-kind contributions such as paying for a candidate’s staff.”

“The purpose of campaign finance disclosure law is to bring greater transparency in campaign finances so Idahoans may see what candidates and political organizations are doing,” GOP executive director Dave Johnston said in the release. “Engaging in confusing money shuffling schemes that appears to violate campaign finance law also violates the spirit of the law – which is to provide greater transparency.”

Ferguson maintained the payroll contract actually provides greater transparency, is fully reported, and that Republican candidates also have contracted out payroll services for their campaigns.

Both sides also took the opportunity to fire a few shots at each other. The Democrats’ release said, “The statement from the IRP seems to be part of an orchestrated smear campaign launched by Republican career politicians, and their lobbyist infrastructure, because they cannot defend Idaho’s rank as last in income, last in education investment, and 2nd in minimum wage jobs.”

The GOP release said, “Balukoff, being a certified public accountant, should know better. However, he is the same candidate who presided over a school board election in Boise that was riddled with shady practices. Finding shady schemes in his finances reports is not a surprise.”

You can read the Dems’ full release here, and the GOP’s full release here. I’ve contacted both parties for more information this morning and haven’t heard back from either. And yes, ‘tis the season…

‘Otter fatigue’ a factor as two-term GOP governor seeks a third term

An Idaho Statesman story over the weekend explored how “Otter fatigue” – a phrase I’ve been hearing increasingly this year from those who watch Idaho politics – could give Democrat A.J. Balukoff a lift in his challenge to two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter. The story, by reporter Rocky Barker, is online here. “Some Idahoans’ disappointment with Otter, a divided GOP and a spirited campaign by Libertarian John Bujak give the Boise businessman a chance to pull off an upset,” Barker reports.

Early polls still show Otter with a big lead, Barker notes. A poll released Saturday by YouGov, the New York Times and CBS News showed Otter with 51 percent, Balukoff with 33 percent, 13 percent undecided and 3 percent saying “other.” That poll, with a sample size of 844, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

But another look at Idaho’s electorate – though two years old, a much larger one – showed roughly 400,000 Idaho voters rejecting the “Students Come First” education reforms that Otter and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna had pushed through and voters overturned in 2012. Balukoff was a prominent backer of the referendum that overturned the laws. In the last general election for governor in 2010, Otter’s margin of victory in his big win over Democratic challenger Keith Allred was 118,803 votes.

Jerry Brady, the Democratic candidate who lost by just 40,000 votes to Otter in 2006, told Barker, “If all those who voted against the Luna laws vote for A.J., he would win.”

Idaho taxpayer costs so far for same-sex marriage appeal: $71K

Idaho taxpayers’ costs so far for continuing to challenge the federal court decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage: $71,477. In response to a request under the Idaho Public Records Law, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office reported spending $2,569, for an appellate filing fee and for travel for two attorneys to the 9th Circuit arguments this week in San Francisco. Gov. Butch Otter’s office reported spending $68,899, including $66,920 for outside counsel.

Private attorney Monte Neil Stewart represented Otter both in the arguments in San Francisco, where he gave the state’s entire presentation of oral arguments; in the preparation of the briefs for that appeal; and in requesting an emergency stay of U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s decision overturning the ban while the state appealed. Stewart charged the state $250 an hour, with a maximum charge of $50,000 for preparing the briefs and $7,000 for making the arguments; both those maximums were met.

The figures don’t include salary costs for state employees who did the work as part of their existing jobs, including attorneys in the Attorney General’s and governor’s offices, who handled the initial case at the U.S. District Court in Boise. Cally Younger, attorney for Otter, said the money for the additional expenses there came from the governor’s office general fund.

Pew: States that put more people in prison actually cut crime less than states that didn’t…

A new analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that states like Idaho, which sharply increased its incarceration rate between 1994 and 2012, had no greater drop in crime than states like New York, which sharply cut its incarceration rate during the same time period. “States that decreased their imprisonment rates cut crime more than states that increased imprisonment,” the Pew Trusts reported.

New York’s incarceration rate fell 24 percent from 1994 to 2012; its crime rate fell 54 percent.

Idaho’s incarceration rate increased 103 percent during that same time period; its crime rate fell 46 percent. Idaho saw the third-highest increase in incarceration rates in the nation during that time, exceeded only by North Dakota and West Virginia. New York had the biggest drop in incarceration rates, and tied with Florida for the biggest drop in crime rates.

“Despite the conventional wisdom, states are showing that it is possible to cut incarceration rates without comprising public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project. The project looked at changes since the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, which led to large increases in imprisonment.

“The crime bill paid billions for new prisons but with nearly 1 in 100 American adults behind bars, we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns,” Gelb said. “There’s now broad bipartisan consensus behind alternatives for lower-level offenders that cost less and do a better job cutting recidivism.” That’s been the focus in Idaho’s new Justice Reinvestment Project, which is seeking to remake Idaho’s justice system to reserve prison space for the most dangerous offenders, find better alternatives for the less-dangerous ones, and reduce rampant recidivism, or repeat offense. That project, backed by all three branches of Idaho’s state government, won legislative approval this past year; it’s aimed at heading off the need to build a big new multimillion-dollar state prison in the next five years.

Pew found that the five states with the largest drops in their incarceration rate saw an average 45 percent drop in crime over the time period. The five states with the largest increases in their incarceration rate saw an average 27 percent drop in crime over that same period. Every state except West Virginia saw drops in crime rates; Pew said leading criminal justice experts say factors other than increasing incarceration – including declining demand for crack cocaine, better policing, technological advances, and reductions in lead exposure – likely contributed to the drop in crime. You can see Pew's 50-state comparison here.

Federal money for IEN still being withheld, IEN to seek another multimillion-dollar bailout from state

Federal officials still are withholding millions in e-rate funds for the Idaho Education Network, Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell reports today, and as a result, the IEN plans to ask state lawmakers for another multimillion-dollar bailout when they convene in January. Lawmakers voted last year to give the broadband network that links Idaho high schools $11.4 million state funds to replace the missing federal money; that will only keep the network going until February. At the time, state Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna said she was confident the situation would be resolved and the missing federal money would arrive.

The feds cut off the money – which was anticipated to fund three-quarters of the cost of the broadband network – after an Idaho Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit questioning the original contract award for the IEN to Education Networks of America and Qwest; the lawsuit still is pending, with its next hearing set for Oct. 10, Sewell reports. That Supreme Court ruling was in March of 2013, but lawmakers weren’t informed until January of this year that the funds had been withheld all that time. They also weren’t informed that the state Department of Administration extended its contract with ENA through 2019, even though it wasn’t yet up for renewal for another year, through 2019, putting the state on the hook for another $10 million.

Sewell’s full report is online here. The IEN mess prompted lawmakers this year to impose new requirements on state agencies to notify the Legislature before renewing big contracts with private vendors.

Crane faces first debate of 16 years in office

Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane will participate in his first series of political debates since he was elected 16 years ago, reports AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, as Crane faces Democratic challenger Deborah Silver in November. He was unopposed in the last election in 2010. Longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby told AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi it's not unusual for incumbents to shy away from sharing the same stage as their opponents, but Crane is unusual for going nearly four terms without participating in either a local or televised debate. Crane's campaign says he didn't duck debates; he just lacked opponents, or lacked opponents who met debate criteria over the years.

Kruesi reports that the state treasurer's position has received more attention since a legislative audit was released in January finding that Crane's office conducted inappropriate money transfers that cost taxpayers millions of dollars beginning in 2008. Crane has repeatedly disputed the audit's findings, but Silver, a longtime CPA from Twin Falls, argues her opponent refuses to comply with all the auditor's recommendations. “I'm looking forward to the debates,” Silver said. “I'm very open to talking about this.”

Sandra Day O’Connor decries state of U.S. civic ed, says nation needs to ‘get busy’ and improve it

Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says her current work to revitalize civic education across the nation is “the most important work I’ve ever done.” She said when she retired from the Supreme Court, she had a goal that was “high on my list to accomplish, and that is to restore civic education in our nation’s schools.” She said through research, she learned that the best way to reach young students today is through “embracing the digital age,” so she’s worked with an array of experts to develop a program called “iCivics” that teaches about American civics through video games.

“Yes, this Arizona cowgirl has actually gotten involved with video games, and it’s working,” she told the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership. Millions of visitors have now gone to the iCivics website, and more than 65,000 teachers have created accounts. The program includes “some very exciting video games, curriculum units, lesson plans and online fora for student engagement.”

O’Connor recited troubling statistics about Americans’ lack of civic knowledge. “Civics scores among high school seniors have steadily declined since the year 2006,” she said. “Civics scores among middle school students have remained at the same low level since 1998, and on the last nationwide civics assessment test, two-thirds of the students who took the test scored below proficient. Now only about one-third of adult Americans can name the three branches of government. Think about that. That’s really pathetic. Let alone describe the roles in our system.”

She added, “Less than one-third of the 8th grade students can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and it’s right there in the name.” Laughter greeted that sharp comment. “Less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how citizen participation benefits democracy.”

O’Connor urged the audience to help raise the nation’s level of civic education. “Get busy,” she said. “Everyone in this room can play an important role in that effort.”

Sandpoint airman honored at state 9/11 ceremony, 67th Idahoan to fall since 2001 attacks

Only one name was added to Idaho’s Fallen Soldier Memorial on Sept. 11 this year – that of David Lyon of Sandpoint, who was killed last December in Afghanistan. It was “one too many,” Chaplain Jim Kennedy said at today’s state ceremony; the number of names engraved on the memorial, listing all Idahoans who died in military service since Sept. 11, 2001, now comes to 67. But Lyon’s parents, Bob and Jeannie Lyon of Sandpoint, were appreciative. “It’s an amazing honor,” Bob Lyon said, unable to stop tears. “We’re very grateful. Freedom isn’t free, it’s not.”

Bob Lyon himself is a proud Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. Jeannie Lyon noted that the U.S. Navy has named a ship in honor of her son. The MV Capt. David Lyon, a 604-foot-long ship in the Military Sealift Command, was chartered in Lyon’s honor in March.

“I want you to know that one man can make a difference, and the differences that David has made in his life and what he has believed in have changed the course of many lives,” said Jeannie Lyon, who is a seventh-grade teacher at Sandpoint Middle School. “That ship epitomizes his philosophy of life, of, ‘Send me – I will protect those who are weak and oppressed. Send me – let me be their strength.’”

Lyon was 28 when he died near Kabul, Afghanistan after a car bomb detonated near his convoy. He was a standout athlete at Sandpoint High School and the Air Force Academy who had served in the Air Force for five years; his wife, Dana, also is an Air Force captain. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see a photo gallery here.

Idaho to pay tribute to fallen soldiers at 9/11 ceremony today

Idaho’s official state 9/11 ceremony is set for 10 a.m. today at the Idaho Fallen Soldier Memorial, which is in front of the Capitol Annex, formerly the old Ada County Courthouse across the street from the state Capitol. Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, along with the U.S. Navy’s vice chief of operations, Admiral Michelle Howard, will lead a solemn ceremony memorializing the 67 Idahoans who have died in military service since Sept. 11, 2001. Other observances also are planned throughout the valley.

How an attempt to kill the Civil Rights Act ended up changing history, revolutionizing American workplaces…

As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act this year, EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic, who spoke in Boise yesterday at the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership, noted a bit of the act’s history that’s largely overlooked today – but that transformed American workplaces.

The act, as originally proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and then by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, was all about race. Congress had passed the Equal Pay Act a year earlier, and many felt they’d dealt with gender discrimination by doing that and needed take no further action in that area. “No one was contemplating that there would be a provision added into the law that would protect women from discrimination in the workplace,” Lipnic said. Then, as the bill worked its way through Congress, a Democratic congressman from Virginia, Howard Smith, who was an avowed segregationist, added the amendment to the law. “There was no legislative history, no committee reports, nothing. This was on the floor of the House,” Lipnic said.

Smith’s move was widely viewed as an attempt at a “poison pill” – a provision so onerous that it would cause the whole bill to fail; he later voted against the bill. But of the 12 women then serving in the House, 11 “rose up to support it,” Lipnic said. “That sisterhood in the House of Representatives then carried the debate.” It passed, 168-133.

When the bill moved on to the Senate, prominent GOP Sen. Everett Dirksen planned to propose an amendment to strip out the sex-discrimination provision. Only two women then served in the Senate; one was Republican Margaret Chase Smith from Maine. She went to a meeting of the Republican caucus, and, the only woman in the room, made such a powerful case that Dirksen decided not to introduce his amendment.

“When that provision was added in to the civil rights bill, it transformed the Civil Rights Act to not leave out half of the population, and it revolutionized the workplace,” Lipnic said. “This conference would not be happening today but for the actions of those women in 1964.”

EEOC commissioner: Nation still plagued by huge number of workplace sexual harassment cases

Victoria Lipnic, commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – and a former assistant secretary of labor – said she was stunned when she arrived at the EEOC in 2010 and saw the huge number of sexual harassment complaints. That’s true still in every region of the nation, she said.

“If we wanted to, we could have a docket of nothing but sexual harassment cases,” she told the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership today. “I look at some of the facts of these cases, and I think to myself, what do women have to do to be able to just go to work and do their jobs and not have to put up with some of this behavior?”

She told the largely female audience of more than 800, “You don’t have to put up with this. And so when you find yourself in situations that are either harassing, borderline assaulting, some very real assaulting, or even just really boorish behavior, you do have an outlet, and you should complain about it – and don’t be afraid to complain about it. Because unless and until more women do that, we really are sort of scratching our heads at the EEOC about what we can do.”

Four eastern Idaho children hospitalized with severe respiratory virus

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Eastern Idaho health officials say four children have been hospitalized due to a respiratory virus. Officials tell KIFI-TV (http://bit.ly/1ulPsuH) that the children on Wednesday are being treated at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. Hundreds of children in more than 10 states have been sickened by a severe respiratory illness that public health officials say may be caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold. The four cases in eastern Idaho are the first reported in the state. Hospital officials say the children have symptoms consistent with enterovirus 68. Health experts say the virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms but that this summer's cases are unusually severe and include serious breathing problems.

Adm. Howard to Idaho women: ‘When it’s right to push back, push back’

In her talk, “Pioneering Success,” at the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership today, Admiral Michelle Howard, the vice-chief of operations for the Navy and a four-star admiral, used the stories of pioneering women – from Sacagawea to Barbara Morgan and many more – to offer advice about how women who are pioneers in their field can forge success. She drew on the stories of women who joined wagon trains and traveled west, and distilled her advice to this: “Commit to the journey, travel light, develop stamina, keep a sense of humor, and stay connected to other women.”

Said Howard, “If you’re in an occupation where there’s less than 25 percent women, you’re a pioneer.” Engineering is a perfect example, she said.

Answering questions from the large audience after her talk, Howard was asked if she had a goal of becoming an admiral. “When I started at Annapolis, women weren’t even serving on ships,” she said. Yet she decided she’d like to command one – knowing it was a long-term goal. In 1999, she became the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.

Howard said the first person to tell her she couldn’t do something because she was a woman was her brother, when at age 12 she declared that she wanted to go to the service academy – but by law, women weren’t allowed. She consulted her mother, who said if she still wanted to go when she was older, she should apply – and if necessary, they’d sue the government. “She goes, ‘Honey, the most important thing in life is trying for what you think is right.’” And solutions could take time, she warned. “You could apply, you could sue the government and you may never get to go but you should keep going after it. … And it doesn’t matter if you never get to go, because if you’re right, the law will change and some women will get to go.”

Howard said she had to deal with “knuckleheads” from time to time in her career. She advised: “Have the courage on your own behalf that when it’s right to push back, push back.”

Female 4-star admiral to Idaho women: ‘Join the military, because we get equal pay’

Idaho women shouldn’t despair over their state’s poor rankings for representation of women in top leadership positions, or for women’s pay vs. men’s, Admiral Michelle Howard, vice-chief of operations for the U.S. Navy and a four-star admiral, said after wowing a big crowd at the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership today. “They will make the change,” Howard predicted. Just last week, Idaho was ranked 45th for women’s pay compared to men, with Idaho women earning 73.5 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Howard, who infused her talk at the conference with humor, had a response to that, too: “Join the military – because we get equal pay.”

Howard, the second-highest official in the U.S. Navy, both the first woman and the first African-American to achieve her four-star rank, and the first African American woman to command a Navy ship – she took command in 1999 – said of all the important things on her plate, talking to women about leadership ranks as “extremely important.” While in Idaho, she’ll also visit the Wyakin Warrior Foundation’s center for injured veterans, and will join Gov. Butch Otter at the state’s official Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony.

Howard was in the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks. “We were on the far side of the building from where the plane hit,” she said. She and other top officials of the joint chiefs were meeting, and watched the New York attacks on television. After the second plane hit, “We really went into overdrive,” she said, clear that “this is not an accident, this is deliberate,” and beginning to organize and mobilize top military resources. “We were getting ready to finish up that meeting when we felt a shudder,” she recalled. Another officer said, “I don’t think that was yellow gear,” referring to the big trucks that rumble in and out of the Pentagon complex. “Pretty quickly we realized we had been hit. We started to lock up all our classified materials, and then the order came to evacuate.”

She and other top brass grabbed bottles of water and headed outside; the Pentagon does so many fire drills that things ran very smoothly, she said. Then someone suggested that the hit might have been the first of many attacks, and everyone began moving down by the river, away from the building. “We could see the smoke,” she said. “I was frustrated and angry. I had trained my whole life, by golly, if I was ever attacked … we’re going to shoot back.” But the 8,000 people evacuated couldn’t all rush over and help; most had to evacuate and go home. “That’s not what I trained for,” she said.

Among her biggest frustrations: Trying to get word to her husband, Wayne, that she was OK. A hunting guide, he was off in the wilds in Wyoming. “He doesn’t even know this is happening,” she said. He ended up getting word the next morning – both that the Pentagon had been attacked, and that his wife was OK.

‘Super supers’ offer Idaho advice on improving schools, with Ybarra, Jones in audience

Both candidates for Idaho’s schools chief job, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, were in the audience last night as two nationally known school superintendents spoke in Boise on improving schools, reports Idaho Education News. The “Super Supers” presentation featured former Massachusetts schools chief David Driscoll and former Florida schools chief Eric Smith; former Maryland schools chief Nancy Grasmick also had been scheduled to attend, but canceled because of an injury.

The two, whose talk was sponsored by the Albertson Foundation, said Idaho needs to ensure equality for all kids, stabilize school funding and master teacher evaluations, reports Idaho EdNews reporter Jennifer Swindell; her full report is online here. Both were excited about new Common Core standards and assessments. “You will see for the first time in history, millions and millions being tested on the same level,” Driscoll said. “We will have strong standards and strong assessments and finally we’ll know what we need to work on.” Added Smith, “We’ve got to stay with it.”

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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