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Eye on Boise: Idaho’s growing Hispanic population a factor in education, economy

Hispanics accounted for 42 percent of the enrollment growth in Idaho’s public schools in the last five years, according to a new report from the University of Idaho’s McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

In fact, 10 Idaho school districts – and eight Idaho counties, including Boundary County – would have lost population from 2010 to 2014 if not for the growth in their Hispanic populations. The center’s three-part study, which examined the Idaho Hispanic population’s demographics, education, and role in the labor force and economy, found that 70 percent of Idaho’s Hispanics were born in the United States and 79 percent are U.S. citizens.

“Our findings offer reasons for optimism as well as concern,” said Priscilla Salant, director of the McClure Center. She noted that while the state’s Hispanic population is a significant contributor to Idaho’s population growth and economic vitality, the group also has lower wage rates than other groups, higher unemployment and lower K-12 school achievement scores.

“If we want to see overall economic prosperity in Idaho grow, it matters so much that this population has the educational opportunities to become the best they can become, and we need to pay attention to that,” Salant said. “If we don’t, then the state as a whole will suffer.”

The McClure Center collaborated with the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs to assemble the three-part study, which is designed to help policymakers and the public understand the needs and impacts of Idaho’s largest minority population.

Overall, Idaho’s K-12 public school population currently is 18 percent Hispanic; Hispanics make up 12 percent of Idaho’s population as a whole. At four Idaho public colleges or universities, including the University of Idaho, Hispanic enrollment increased between 2009 and 2014 while non-Hispanic enrollment decreased.

The percentage of Hispanic-owned businesses in Idaho grew from 2.6 percent in 2007 to 4.3 percent in 2012, according to the study.

The Hispanic population already is growing faster than Idaho’s population as a whole, and two demographic features suggest even further growth: Idaho Hispanics are younger than other Idahoans, with a median age of 24 compared to the median for Idaho non-Hispanics of 38; and there’s a big difference in their births-to-deaths ratio. In 2013, there were 9.5 births for every death among Idaho Hispanics. Among non-Hispanic whites, there were just 1.6 births for every death.

The full reports are posted on the McClure Center’s website at uidaho.edu/class/mcclure-center, under “Publications and Studies, Idaho at a Glance.”

Delegation decries Trump comments

Idaho 2nd District GOP Rep. Mike Simpson has joined Sen. Mike Crapo in decrying Donald Trump’s comments that a federal judge can’t be fair in his Trump University fraud case because he is of Mexican heritage. Here is Simpson’s statement:

“America is a country where all people are welcome, regardless of their ethnicity or faith. I completely disagree with Donald Trump’s comments and find them offensive. At this time, I’m struggling with my support of the presumed Republican nominee, but Hillary is simply not an option. Trump would be far better off to discuss issues of importance rather than these hateful diatribes he continues to disperse.”

GOP Rep. Raul Labrador, who represents Idaho’s 1st District, didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment; he told Washington, D.C., reporters on Thursday that he found Trump’s comments “morally abhorrent,” but would continue to support him for president.

May revenues slightly off

Idaho state general fund revenues for May came in 3.1 percent below forecasts, but 0.2 percent above the previous May; for the fiscal year to date, that puts state tax revenues almost right on forecast, at 0.7 percent below, and 3.5 percent above the same time last year.

The month’s weakness came in individual income tax receipts, which fell $13.3 million below forecasts, or 17.5 percent. Every other category was above forecast, but even together, they couldn’t fully offset the gap in individual income taxes. Sales taxes for the month were $6 million above forecasts and 12.4 percent higher than the previous May; other tax categories were close to target levels.

According to the state Division of Financial Management, the culprit within the individual income tax category was refunds, which were $21.3 million above the forecast level for the month, and 65.1 percent higher than in May of 2015. Both filing collections and withholding payments were above forecasts for the month.

The May report follows an April report that showed state revenues 1.8 percent under forecast for the month and 0.5 percent below forecast for the fiscal year; April’s collections were 5 percent higher than April 2015.