McGeachin lays out platform, decries Little’s pandemic response

Ramping up her criticisms of Gov. Brad Little, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin Thursday released a checklist of 10 priorities for her first 100 days in office.

Several education items landed on the broad-ranging list. The checklist included several recurring themes from the Republican’s campaign — including a pledge to “end the threat of medical tyranny,” a push for a 50-state forensic audit of the 2020 presidential election and a pledge to repeal the sales tax on groceries.

And, again, McGeachin criticized Little’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, saying the state’s policies have hurt businesses and families.

“Even if my opponent is not incompetent, he is certainly indifferent,” McGeachin said during a news conference in front of the Statehouse. “He’s indifferent to the suffering of Idaho’s families, who saw schools closed, proms cancelled and sport seasons called off, leaving many children and young people isolated and depressed.”

Flanked by supporters on the Statehouse steps, McGeachin touched on several education themes, but did not go into many details.

  • She pledged to push for school choice. “We must strengthen families by giving parents greater control over their children’s education dollars.” The House Education Committee this year rejected an education savings accounts bill — the most high-profile school choice proposal of the year.
  • She promised to protect children, by “getting obscene materials out of our schools and our libraries.” The House passed a bill that would have left librarians and school employees subject to jail time for disseminating “harmful materials” to children. The Senate is not expected to take it up.
  • McGeachin pledged to reopen the University of Idaho’s School of Mines, “so our own sons and daughters have the technological know-how to achieve energy independence, here in Idaho.” The school was closed during a 2002 budget crisis.
  • McGeachin also made a vague reference to the cost of growth. “We will make the get-rich-quick builders pay for new schools, roads and infrastructure.” School impact fees have been a recurring topic in education circles, but the Legislature has never acted on the idea.

The ‘Black Hole Award’

On Thursday, the Society of Professional Journalists gave McGeachin its annual “Black Hole Award,” for her refusal to release comments to her 2021 education task force.

Idaho Education News, the Idaho Capital Sun and the Idaho Statesman requested the comments last spring. McGeachin’s office refused to release the documents in unedited form, and sought to redact the names, email addresses and personally identifying information of commenters.

The Idaho Press Club sued, and in August, a district judge ordered McGeachin to release the comments in full. The comments were overwhelmingly in opposition to her task force, Idaho Capital Sun reported in October.

Asked about Thursday’s SPJ announcement, McGeachin again sought to shift the blame to the media, for refusing to pay $500 or more for the redacted documents.

“It’s the press that actually cost taxpayer dollars,” McGeachin said Thursday. “They could have simply agreed to pay the fee, which is also prescribed in the law.”

The SPJ, a national organization, issues its “Black Hole Award” to mark Sunshine Week, an annual event recognizing the importance of government transparency.

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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