Democrats approve platform, unanimously

(UPDATED, 5:44 p.m. PDT, with vote an details on platform.)

MOSCOW — Idaho Democrats, determined this weekend to check off the convention chores left undone by Republicans last week, approved their party platform Saturday afternoon.

The vote was unanimous and punctuated by a standing ovation from the 175 delegates in attendance.

The platform vote was the last official business at the Democrats’ two-day convention — a confab where party harmony was the watchword, and strategy was clearly a part of the platform-writing process. Democrats seemed determined to write a document that would encapsulate party values, but give little ammunition for Republicans.

State Rep. Mat Erpelding, a Boise lawmaker and member of the party’s platform committee, said the goal was to write a platform that would allow candidates and elected officials to represent their respective constituencies.

“We’re an inclusive, big-tent party, and we’re not a party of purists,” he said before Saturday’s vote.

But first, Democrats spent some time trying to figure out exactly what to say. And what not to say.

For Laurynda Williams of Meridian, a draft of the two-page document came up short on acknowledging teachers. On Saturday morning, she suggested adding language recognizing the role of teachers in crafting curriculum, and recognizing the importance of curriculum based on “best practices and science.”

Williams stopped short on recommending any language on Common Core, recognizing the controversial math and English language arts standards are a red flag.

Common Core wasn’t the only education catchphrase absent from the platform.

As I reported Friday, the platform was tweaked during the day to delete a reference to “pre-kindergarten.” Democrats are instead opting for a reference to “early childhood” education. The motivation is partly political. Pre-k is a hot-button issue in many corners of the state.

The wordsmithing was not confined to education topics. On Saturday morning, Boise delegate Gary Richardson took issue with the platform’s reference to “climate disruption.” In his view, the trend is “climate change,” and Democrats should call it what it is.

“I know we’re trying to placate the deniers, but they’re not going to vote for us anyway,” he said.

Ultimately, the platform committee appeared to listen to both Williams and Richardson.

The education plank included a late insertion: “Teaching should be based on standards and best practices that maximize student learning.”

And the environmental plank spoke of climate change, not climate disruption.

Here, in full, is the Democrats’ education platform plank:

“Public education must be a ‘system’ that begins during early childhood and continues through higher education. Teaching should be based on standards and best practices that maximize student learning. Affordable access, provided by community colleges, vocational/technical schools and research universities, is essential. Public education funding should be stable and appropriate, and be maintained and protected from variability in the state budget.”

More reading: In the wake of the Republican convention blowup, this Idaho Statesman article provides a good overview of the discord within the GOP.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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