Boise’s only contested Republican legislative primary race features a former state senator who is challenging a member of the House Education Committee.
On May 17, former Senate Majority Leader Rod Beck and current Rep. Patrick McDonald square off for the Republican nomination for House Seat B in Legislative District 15.
Beck, who served in the Senate from 1985-90, and again from 1994-95, said he is hoping to return to the Legislature to push for reform. He said leadership and committee chairmen regularly block legislation they don’t agree with, and he wants to restrict gift-giving to lawmakers and other elected officials.
“I’m not happy with the transparency and the way the Legislature won’t allow certain items to be discussed,” Beck said. “Pension-boosting is just wrong. Members of the Legislature can get in the Legislature as a part-time job for 20 years and, all of a sudden, take a high-paying state job and boost their pension up by five or six times.”
Beck, a past regional chairman for the Republican Party in Idaho, also serves as the state chairman for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
McDonald is a former U.S. marshal for Idaho who served in law enforcement for 43 years. During the most recent legislative session, McDonald was active in efforts to increase school security across the state. If he’s re-elected, McDonald would fight for “an Idaho solution” to help residents who fall in the so-called healthcare and Medicaid gap.
“I don’t want it to be dictated by federal government,” McDonald said. “We’ve got the resources to put together and find a good, viable solution to not only help those people with their healthcare, but also make it an educational process where we can help them take care of themselves.”
Beck and McDonald have a history. In 2014, Republicans in District 15 named Beck their No. 1 choice to fill a legislative vacancy created by Rep. Mark Patterson’s resignation. Gov. Butch Otter appointed McDonald, the local Republicans’ second choice, to replace Patterson.
The winner of the May 17 primary moves on to face Boise Democrat Jake Ellis in November’s general election.
Republican primary: District 15 House Seat B
Rod Beck (www.rodwbeck.com)
Patrick McDonald (www.patmcdonald.org)
How long have you lived in your legislative district?
Beck: Idaho native, moved to Boise in 1976.
McDonald: Idaho native, moved to Boise in 2002.
Beck: Attended Ricks College (now Brigham Young University-Idaho), Brigham Young University and Boise State University. Studied business and finance.
McDonald: Master’s degree in human resources development from Idaho State University, bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University, associate’s degree in law enforcement technology/criminal justice from College of Southern Idaho.
Beck: Served in Idaho Senate from 1985-1990 and 1994-1995. Appointed director of Idaho House and Finance Association by former Gov. Phil Batt. Ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1992.
McDonald: Serving second term in the Idaho House, appointed to the Idaho House in 2014 by Gov. Butch Otter. Appointed U.S. Marshal for Idaho by President George W. Bush in 2002.
Who can vote: Registered voters within District 15, which is located entirely within Ada County and includes a portion of Boise. Check this map for details.
Election date: May 17.
Education connections: Beck is the former Senate majority leader and has served on the budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and the Senate Education Committee. McDonald serves on the House Education Committee and has taught at the postsecondary level at Brown Mackie College.
Do you support the 2016-17 public school budget passed by the Legislature this year?
Beck: “I’m not as familiar with this year’s education budget. But, yes, I have served on JFAC and the education budget is always the biggest budget there is. Idaho’s commitment to education is pretty strong. It used to be about 70 percent of the budget. They needed the increase for the teachers, because they had a hit on their salaries (during the economic downtown). But I think the state budget went up more than it should have this year. But I can’t offer any kind of constructive criticism of the education budget. I have not reviewed it that thoroughly, and I’m also not running for school board. But I do believe in local control and I would like to see a few more charter schools and parents having a bigger role in the education of their kids.”
McDonald: “Yes. Being on the education committee, we are very mindful of working with the superintendent of public instruction. She is a very capable lady, and she knows exactly what she is doing and she brings some neat things into Idaho that we are going to benefit from. From a money standpoint, we have been able to do in three years what they had in a five-year plan. By restoring discretionary funding for districts, it gives them the latitude to do what they need to do. That was one of the areas I was very proud of, with regards to being a small part of that. We let the educators determine what the priorities are and what they will do with that. The other is the career path with the career ladder. We really did a lot work on that area and brought (educators’) base pay up. That was something that went smoother and faster than planned, because we got feedback from those people who were involved.”
Do you support or oppose implementing all of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education recommendations over the next three years?
Beck: “I’m not as familiar with those as I probably could be if I was on the education committee. I am aware they were specifically a response to the Luna laws that failed. (Gov.) Otter suggested that he hadn’t listened enough and put in the task force to take a serious look at education. And the task force, as I recall, recommended pretty much 80 to 90 percent of what was in the Luna laws, which I supported. If the task force proposals were mirroring a lot of those statutes (from the Luna laws) then I would be good with them. I can say also I’m disappointed in Idaho’s mandated participation in Common Core and SBAC testing. I don’t have any problem with standards and raising standards but to have all that dictated out of Washington is troubling.”
McDonald: “The thing I like about that task force system is that it is Idaho people providing Idaho solutions to Idaho problems. We’ve got people in there that have given us the information on what we need to do to increase the academic side of this process, and we don’t have to listen to the federal government. That task force is very mindful of letting the local people decide what they want, and I support that. That is the key to the whole thing, letting local people decide what kind of local education they want. There are very capable people on the task force and they all know what the problems are, and they bring to that task force what needs to be done in Idaho.”
State leaders are promoting a goal of having 60 percent of the Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. What is your position on this goal?
Beck: “I don’t think there are any problems with that. It’s probably a good idea, encouraging more advanced education. But I don’t think we should strictly limit it to universities. I think some vocational education programs are really where some of our kids ought to be. There are just not enough jobs out there. Every kid probably doesn’t have the skills to go on to college. Probably there ought to be some sort of vocation program in there, but I think we are building toward that, no question.”
McDonald: “Absolutely, I support that. Higher education is critically important. What I hate to see is kids leaving their high school and going out of state. I want to keep them here in Idaho, and we’ve really plowed some ground with regards to the funding and expansion of programs and the process that is involved in establishing curriculum at the post secondary level. I support the lieutenant governor for bringing this (before the Legislature this year). I think he’s right on the button. What I’d like to do is put more money into that level of higher education. What Idaho State (University) has done through its pharmaceutical program is made things available to rural areas in Idaho that have never had access to it before through video. I want to try to fund them (higher education programs) at a little higher rate so that they can expand these programs and benefit more people out in the rural areas. We really need to look at funding the post secondary level higher than what we do now and we can because we’ve done some great things at the elementary and secondary levels with K-12. It’s in our best interest to keep Idaho kids here and make scholarships available to them. We don’t take a back seat to anybody in the U.S. with regards to the quality of instruction here.”
This year the Legislature passed two bills and set aside $9.1 million in new funding in an attempt to improve literacy rates for students in grades kindergarten through third grade. Do you support or oppose this plan?
Beck: “Reading is fundamental to a child’s education. I’m not familiar with that particular literacy program, but the reading curriculum in Common Core is deficient from what I understand. I know this has been an ongoing struggle for years. When my kids were starting into school there was an experiment going on with the Meridian School District at the time. There was a difference between sight reading and phonetics. I’ve always wondered why education has gone away from phonetics to more of a sight reading approach. Phonetics works, and I’ve witnessed it in my own kids. But I’m not sure how they do the remedial reading program.
McDonald: “It’s critical. It’s absolutely critical. If a child learns how to read well from K-3, then the rest of his education process is made so much easier. It is also made so much more inexpensive because you don’t have to have the remediation. We got to the point where we’ve got to bring that literacy rate up, and we are. We funded a project that allows, depending where the child lies in the scheme of things, to get 60 hours of extra instruction. That’s going to produce all kinds of good things, and not only from the standpoint of the taxpayer. Things will be easier and they will learn faster and they will learn better when they have reading comprehension. There is going to be a review of that process, and I want to make sure the money dedicated to the process is not only well-spent, but that we’re getting the bang for our buck. We want to make sure we’re getting solutions to the problems we anticipate. Our educators are very good educators, and they know what to do. This is an Idaho solution.”
- Check McDonald’s voting record on education issues by scrolling through EdNews’ Bill Tracker.
- May 5: District 30 House Seat B, Horman vs. Neal.
- May 4: District 14 House Seat B, DeMordaunt vs. Jones.
- April 26: District 34 House Seat A, Nate vs. Ricks.
- April 20: District 9 House Seat B, Boyle vs. Dolton.
- April 18: District 9 House Seat A, Kerby vs. Stephens.
- April 11: District 4 House Seat A, Macomber vs. Malek.
- April 5: EdNews’ campaign kickoff article.