The race for secretary of state is, ahem, heating up, with Phil McGrane making a novel entrance.
The deputy Ada County clerk is launching his Republican bid at 5 p.m. today at the Ada County Courthouse. And he’s planning to give out free barbecue, which stands to reason; as the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey reports, McGrane is a competitive barbecue chef.
McGrane also lists support from nine county clerks and Ada County’s three Republican commissioners.
So here’s your up-to-the-minute rundown of who’s running to succeed the retiring Ben Ysursa. McGrane joins state Rep. Lawerence Denney of Midvale, who has already announced his run. Former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski, a Boise Republican, has named a campaign treasurer; that’s a precursor to a possible run. State Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, is considering the race. So is Rep. Holli Woodings, D-Boise.
The secretary of state is Idaho’s top elections official, and one of five members of the Idaho Land Board, which sets endowment land policy that affects public school budgets, to the tune of $31.3 million annually.
The Nampa School District and teachers have failed to reach terms on another contract issue: how best to distribute one-time money for teacher professional development.
Teachers wanted the money distributed in a manner that would support a salary increase for eligible instructors, the Idaho Press-Tribune reported. District negotiators balked at using one-time dollars to fund an ongoing salary increase.
With that, an all-day mediation session Thursday ended without an agreement. And Nampa will distribute about $317,000 in stipends to teachers who take part in voluntary professional development this spring, district spokeswoman Allison Westfall told the Press-Tribune.
This isn’t the first financial impasse between district and Nampa Education Association negotiators. In June, the two sides could not reach an agreement on a plan to reduce the cash-strapped district’s shortfall, so district officials imposed 14 unpaid furlough days in an attempt to cut $2.6 million in spending.
Here’s Thursday’s statement from the Nampa School District:
The Nampa School District and Nampa Education Association ended a negotiation session with a federal mediator today without reaching agreement on the use of one-time professional development money from the state, which by law must be focused on Idaho Core training.
The district will move forward with its plan which includes paying stipends totaling about $317,000 to teachers who participate voluntary professional development this spring.
“We reached agreement on a vast majority of items during negotiation sessions this year,” said Pete Koehler, superintendent. “The use of this professional development money is restricted by state law. The good news is that even though we didn’t reach agreement with the union, all our teachers will have the opportunity to earn additional money by participating in this opportunity.”
The professional development plan is part of the district’s differential pay plan that also includes more than $600,000 in bonuses that can be earned when schools reach goals identified in plans teachers help create. The district’s differential pay plan was approved in September by the Nampa Board of Trustees and approved by the Idaho State Department of Education.
The district and association have been in negotiations since May and had reached tentative agreements on several items, but without reaching agreements on pay, a master contract has not been finalized.
More twists and turns in the saga of the 2014 Snake River Canyon jump — an event, ostensibly, that is supposed to result in a $1 million or so windfall for public schools.
‘Big Ed’ Beckley
The Twin Falls City Council is being asked to take another look at its agreement to work with Texas stuntman “Big Ed” Beckley. Last month, the council granted Beckley access to the city-owned canyon launch site, used by Evel Knievel in his failed 1974 stunt. Reo Development Group, another bidder for access to the launch site, wants the council to revisit the issue at its meeting tonight, reports Kimberlee Kruesi of The Times-News in Twin Falls.
The link between this municipal issue and state education funding is not much of a leap.
Beckley won a state auction on Sept. 27, securing a two-year lease for the state-owned landing site on the north rim of the canyon. He has already paid the state $943,000, money that will go straight into the public school endowment, and public schools would also get a cut on broadcast and event revenues from the leap.
But the leap is contingent on Beckley securing city permits as well.
Kruesi also reported recently that Beckley threatened to sue, if the Twin Falls City Council selected another bidder.
“Beckley Media followed the City’s directive in good faith, and expended huge sums of money, time and effort to become the only applicant to obtain the State lease,” Beckley said in a memo to Twin Falls City Hall. “After obtaining the lease and permission from the State, Beckley Media learned that the City has changed its position and is considering awarding the permit to applicants who do not possess the State lease the City directed Mr. Beckley to obtain.”
Three days after Idaho Democrats touted A.J. Balukoff as their party’s candidate for governor, here’s an interesting campaign tidbit from the Associated Press.
In 2008, when Walt Minnick successfully ousted Republican Rep. Bill Sali, Balukoff’s name appeared on a list of 60 “Republicans for Minnick.”
According to the AP, Balukoff didn’t vote in 2012 GOP’s primary election, which is now open only to registered Republicans.
Balukoff is a 16-year Boise School Board member, but that is a nonpartisan elected post. Balukoff has never run for any other political office.
The AP story comes after Republican Gov. Butch Otter and his main primary opponent, state Sen. Russ Fulcher, both threw jabs at Balukoff’s links to the party of President Obama. In response, Balukoff issued a statement Thursday, chiding Otter for playing the partisan card:
“I saw that Gov. Otter noticed our amazing campaign kickoff (thank you everyone for the great start). His spokesman immediately launched the same, tired, false partisan attack that makes Idahoans so frustrated with politics. I understand why they feel threatened, though: Our campaign is about bringing Idaho values like honesty, hard work, respect, fairness and financial responsibility back to the Statehouse. More partisan attacks aren’t going improve our schools or help hard-pressed families make ends meet. We need a governor who will be independent enough to do the right thing, regardless of party. That’s how I have been able to get results as a businessman, an education leader and a community volunteer.”
Months after the case of Tim McDaniel drew national and international media attention, the case is now closed.
In March, four parents had filed complaints against the veteran science teacher in rural Dietrich High School; one complaint focused on McDaniel’s use of the word “vagina” in a sex education class.
The state’s Professional Standards Commission “determined that there were not sufficient grounds upon which to pursue discipline,” Education Department spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told the Times-News in Twin Falls Thursday.
Nonetheless, McDaniel told The Times-News that he won’t teach about the human reproductive system in biology class this year. “It’s sad because the kids need it, but I don’t need the headaches,” he said.
Here’s a link to a previous blog post on the flap.
(UPDATED, 4:09 p.m., with Otter comments.)
The Idaho Statesman’s Bill Roberts did some interesting nose-counting on the Senate and House education committees — to see where the members stand on Idaho Core Standards.
The tallies were incomplete and inconclusive:
- In the House Education Committee, eight members support the math and English language arts standards. Three members are opposed, three are undecided, and two couldn’t be reached.
- In the Senate committee, four members support the standards, three are opposed, and one couldn’t be reached. (Also worth noting: Senate Education has an open spot; Democrats will have a chance to pick a successor to former Sen. Branden Durst.)
Ultimately, the roll call may be academic. Both committee chairs — Sen. John Goedde and Rep. Reed DeMordaunt — are in favor of the standards, reinforcing their support with a recent letter to colleagues. Committee chairs have a great deal of latitude in setting agendas, and advancing or scuttling legislation. It’s hard to envision an outright repeal of the standards gaining much traction in either committee.
Then, of course, there’s Gov. Butch Otter, who holds the power of the veto stamp. He supports staying the course on Idaho’s version of Common Core, as well as the 19 other recommendations from his education reform task force. On Thursday, during an education reform live chat at idahostatesman,com, Otter restated his support. “I think Common Core is often misunderstood and it is our repsonsibility to correct misunderstandings and continue to improve the implementation of more rigorous standards.”
But that’s not to say there won’t be some noise on Common Core this legislative session. That’s all but assured.
For example, it’s easy to envision some blowback in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee — which will write a 2014-15 public schools budget that would, presumably, contain money for the continued Common Core rollout. Or some fireworks on the House or Senate floor, when the K-12 budgets come up for a vote.
Another interesting sidelight in Roberts’ story: gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Russ Fulcher explains why he now opposes the Idaho Core Standards, when he supported them in the Senate committee in 2011. (Here’s a little bit more backstory on that issue.)
It will be interesting to see if other lawmakers renounce their support of Common Core — or go out of their way next session to take a stand on this issue.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff
Here are the quick — and strikingly similar — reactions to Boise School Board president A.J. Balukoff’s entry into the governor’s race. On Tuesday, Balukoff announced his plans to run on the Democratic ticket.
From Republican Gov. Butch Otter (hat tip to Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review): “While others campaign and consider their options, Governor Otter is busy governing and continuing to position Idaho at the forefront of growth, job creation and freedom. He’s staying focused on the proper role of government while defending Idaho’s independence, addressing our workforce needs and creating economic opportunity for all Idahoans. That said, the Governor looks forward to discussing with voters the implications of a Democrat working to advance the Obama administration’s big-government priorities here in Idaho.”
From Meridian Republican Sen. Russ Fulcher’s campaign Facebook page: “I congratulate Mr. Balukoff for seeking his party’s nomination for Governor, but let’s not forget that he represents the party that authored Obamacare. As I traveled throughout the state and met with Idahoans, I heard their demand for new leadership and overwhelming opposition to federal control of healthcare. I know I stand on the side of the majority of Idahoans in rejecting and replacing Obamacare. The 105,000 Idahoans that are having their insurance cancelled under Obamacare will be interested to know if Mr. Balukoff plans to support his fellow Democrats on this issue.”
Otter and Fulcher may not agree on everything. But they agree about when, and how, to invoke the name of the president.
The Middleton man who proposed a house raffle to help the Nampa School District is now positioning to sue the state.
Philip Allaire, left, and former Nampa school Superintendent Thomas Michaelson.
Philip J. Allaire has filed a tort claim against the Idaho Lottery Commission, which opposes Allaire’s plans to sell the $100 raffle tickets online. The lottery contends the online ticket sales violate state law.
According to the tort claim against the Lottery, obtained by the Idaho Press-Tribune, Allaire “has suffered and will continue to suffer damages in excess of $500,000 as a result of these entities’ negligent, reckless and/or intentional acts or omissions.”
A tort claim is a precursor to a possible lawsuit against a public agency.
The lottery isn’t talking about the tort claim.
Allaire announced his plans for the raffle in May, pledging to sponsor a series of raffles to help Nampa schools offset $4 million in shortfalls. He abruptly ended the raffle on the first house, after only a few days and selling only 47 tickets, after the lottery commission said his plan violated several state and federal laws.
At least 26 states increased funding for pre-kindergarten programs in 2013, including two states that have launched pre-K.
And this trend underscores the case for launching a pre-K pilot program in Idaho, says Bruce Atchison, director of the Early Learning Institute for the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.
Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise
Atchison is in Boise this week at the invitation of Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, who is drafting a pre-K bill for the 2014 legislative session. Atchison and Kloc had meetings scheduled with early education advocates and with two business groups, the Idaho Technology Council and Idaho Business for Education.
Atchison’s group — which provides education research to governors, state school superintendents, legislators and staffers — is working on a report on pre-K funding for release next week. While the results aren’t yet final, and the commission is still awaiting responses from a few states, Atchison shared a few highlights in an interview Monday. Twenty-six states have increased pre-K funding, he said, and only four of them would be considered “blue states.” With two states, Mississippi and Hawaii, launching state-funded pre-K, Idaho now is among only nine states that do not fund early education.
“We won’t slam these states, because we’re not about slamming,” Atchison said. “We’re about best practices.”
Idaho legislators have rejected several pre-K bills in recent years — questioning whether the state can afford to fund another year of education, and suggesting that young children are best taught at home.
The key to convincing legislators to fund a pre-K program may be in changing the dialogue, says Atchison. Education stakeholders can talk up the benefits of pre-K, but business leaders, law enforcement and parents all can have an important role.
Relatively speaking, funding issues are more easily solved. “There are ways to do funding,” Atchison said.
Kloc is drafting a bill to create three-year pilot pre-K programs. The programs would be voluntary, and the first 55 percent of funding would come from private entities. Kloc still has not decided whether the state or school districts would pick up the public end of funding.
Kloc says some Republican legislators are “very interested” in his pilot bill, and one wants to sign on as a co-sponsor. But Kloc declined to identify the lawmaker.
(UPDATED, 1:10 p.m., to reflect that state Rep. Holli Woodings is considering a run.)
The race to succeed Secretary of State Ben Ysursa should be crowded, but state Sen. Marv Hagedorn says he has decided against a run.
Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian
“My gut tells me now is not the right time for a move,” Hagedorn, R-Meridian, said in a message sent out this morning over Twitter.
Hagedorn instead says he will seek a fifth legislative term in 2014. “The Legislature is a very complex operation working on a multitude of state and national issues all the time. That challenge keeps me charged up at this stage of my life.”
So let’s reset the field for secretary of state.
- State Rep. Lawerence Denney of Midvale is already in the race — and last week came the news that he will get some fundraising support from the cast of the popular cable TV reality series “Duck Dynasty.”
- Former state Sen. Mitch Toryanski of Boise and deputy Ada County clerk Phil McGrane have filed paperwork naming a campaign treasurer. This is a precursor to fund-raising for a run, but neither Toryanski nor McGrane have formally entered the race.
- First-term Rep, Luke Malek of Coeur d’Alene says he is considering a run.
- No Democrats have announced for the race. But state Rep. Holli Woodings of Boise tells Boise Weekly that she is thinking about the race.
The secretary of state is Idaho’s chief elections official. The secretary of state also holds one of five seats on the Idaho Land Board, determining state lands policies affecting public schools and other endowment beneficiaries.