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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho lawmaker stands by calling public schools ‘Godless’ institutions

Rep. Vito Barbieri is defending a statement posted on his re-election campaign website in which he called on Christians to pull their children out of Idaho’s “Godless” public schools.

In a debate on TV Channel 19 between Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, and his Democratic challenger Cheryl Stransky, also from Dalton Gardens, Barbieri was asked about this statement posted on his website regarding public schools: “One more thing: If you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and God, then pull your kids out of that Godless institution.”

Barbieri told questioners from the Coeur Group that he stands by the statement. “My words exactly,” he said.

Barbieri, a first-term state lawmaker who’s seeking a second term, said, “The first alternative is home schooling. You have control of your curriculum. Even with the Luna laws, we weren’t addressing curriculum, we were addressing how it was delivered. If you want to have control of your children’s curriculum, home school. If that’s not an alternative, private education needs funds.”

He called for a state tax credit to underwrite scholarships for private schools, citing a program in Georgia. “It has helped amazingly with private schools that were struggling and new private schools that were able to start, by simply giving a taxpayer the ability to direct their taxes to education,” Barbieri said. “It’s an excellent way to help education, and it’s an excellent way to allow an alternative to this public school system that is certainly serving a purpose, but there are questions about the curriculum, and that’s what I’m concerned with.”

Stransky, a retired longtime school counselor, differed sharply. “I do not believe in any sort of (public) funding for private schools,” she said. “We need to keep the base open. Public education is the great equalizer in this country, it has always been, and I think it needs to stay that way.”

She said, “We need to fund education in the manner in which it deserves. Public education still gives students opportunities, it levels the playing field.”

Their 15-minute debate, along with debates in other Kootenai County legislative and local races, is posted on the city of Coeur d’Alene’s website; go to, and click on “TV Channel 19.”

Barbieri, Stransky nearly even on funds

In most legislative races, incumbents are piling up lots more cash in their campaign war chests than their challengers, but the Barbieri-Stransky race is an exception: The two candidates’ fundraising overall has been almost identical, according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

Barbieri reported raising $4,050 since June for a total of $9,014 for the election cycle to date. He spent $2,148 in the past quarter, and reported $8,105 on hand and $1,175 in debt to himself at the close of the reporting period.

Stransky reported raising $7,375 since June for a total of $9,347 for the election cycle to date. She spent $5,393 in the past quarter, and reported $1,192 on hand and $300 in debt to herself.

Stransky’s biggest donations in the quarter were $1,000 from J. Warren and Deborah Fisher of Coeur d’Alene, $1,000 from the PAC for Education; and $500 from the North Idaho Builders PAC. She also received 59 donations from individuals.

Barbieri’s biggest donations in the quarter were $1,000 from Idaho Power Corp., the Southern Idaho utility; $500 each from Duane Hagadone’s Idaho Committee on Hospitality and Sports and from Winning for Idaho, which represents racetrack betting operations including the Greyhound Park Event Center; and $400 from Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris tobacco. He received just one donation from an individual, $100 from Danielle Ahrens of Sandpoint.

Labrador has cash advantage

1st Congressional District GOP Rep. Raul Labrador reports that he’s raised $177,609 in the latest campaign finance reporting period – a total of $797,686 for the election cycle to date; he’s spent $87,073 ($510,197 to date), and had $290,984 in cash for his campaign at the close of the reporting period, which ran from July 1 to Sept. 30. His Democratic challenger, Jimmy Farris, reported raising $32,606 in the reporting period – $69,993 to date; spending $31,024 ($60,086 to date), and had just $9,888 on hand at the close of the reporting period.

Just over half of Farris’ fundraising for the period, $17,000, came from unions. The rest was from individuals, including online donations through the ActBlue Democratic fundraising site, or from Democratic Party committees.

Labrador raised $119,109 from individuals, including lots of business owners and top executives in Idaho, and $58,500 from PACs during the reporting period. His biggest single donation was $10,000 from The Freedom Project, House Speaker John Boehner’s House GOP leadership PAC; he also received $2,000 from Friends of John Boehner.