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Eye On Boise

Rep. McMillan votes to kill popular Youth Challenge program in her own district, but it survives

Idaho Rep. Shannon McMillan was one of 17 lawmakers who voted to kill the National Guard Youth Challenge Academy Friday, even though it's in her own legislative district, reports Bill Spence of the Lewiston Tribune. The academy in Clearwater County, in the old Pierce school, helps Idaho high school dropouts get their lives back on track; it currently provides 45 full-time jobs in a community of about 500 people, with an annual budget of $3.2 million.

McMillan said she opposed the bill because the Youth Challenge was initially supposed to be funded entirely with private donations and federal matching dollars. “It's supposed to be funded with private money, and now it gets money from (the state),” she said after the vote. However, McMillan voted in favor of the 2012 bill that allows the academy to tap into the state public school dollars, based on its annual enrollment levels. When asked why she now opposes state funding for the school, McMillan shrugged her shoulders and told Spence she'd have to think about that.

The academy received $2.4 million in federal dollars this year, along with about $800,000 in state school funding, as well as some private donations. The bill, HB 52, to remove a “sunset clause,” or expiration on the legislation authorizing the academy, passed the House 46-17 on Friday and now heads to the Senate.

Clearwater County Commissioner Don Ebert told Spence he didn't know how the program could be any more successful. “Seventeen people voted against it?” he asked. “Wow. I can't understand what's going through anyone's head who would vote against it. The benefits are pretty evident.” You can read Spence’s full report here at his “Political Theater” blog.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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