Idaho’s children are the state’s most valuable asset. The future of our state will be defined by the successes and failures of our youth. The legislature can set up obstacles or ease the path for Idaho children. Your representatives have a hand in deciding how much funding your local school gets, how your children are protected from abuse and neglect, whether daycare workers receive training, and so much more. The state legislature decides the laws that will influence nearly every aspect of our children’s life. Unfortunately, the legislature’s performance has been failing Idaho’s children.
The House of Representatives, in particular, has made a full-frontal assault on Idaho’s children. In the 2019 session, the House refused to pass legislation that would have created a minimum marriage age of 16 in Idaho. Our current laws continue to permit child marriage. A 45-year-old man can marry a 12-year-old girl, circumventing statutory rape laws.
In the same breath, the House passed legislation that would have weakened the ability of Child Protective Services to investigate child abuse and neglect. Typically, CPS workers build relationships with families, connect them to services, and develop child safety plans. Only when the workers determine that the children cannot safely remain in a home do they oversee their removal.
This law would have required that CPS workers initiate contact with parents by telling them that they do not have to cooperate or even talk with CPS. This approach invites noncompliance and would prevent workers from checking on the safety of the children. If a young girl is being sexually abused by her father and a teacher calls CPS, the father would likely refuse to talk, shut the door on the CPS worker and continue to abuse his daughter without any repercussions. Thankfully, the legislation failed in the Senate.
The House has not improved their behavior in this session. We have already seen votes that threaten the safety and success of our children. Idaho Democrats tried to strengthen daycare standards to cover basic child safety, but 44 lawmakers killed the legislation. The bill would have required merely 12 hours of training, which is already available online for free. Daycare workers would also need to pass background checks and learn the most current information on how to prevent infant sleeping deaths and keep children safe. If the daycare transports children, it would have to ensure that infants and toddlers were in proper car seats.
During the same week, the House passed legislation to take local control away from school districts. The bill would force school districts to wait 11 months after a bond fails before they could bring it back to voters again, even if they revise the proposal. Because Idaho has an extremely high bar for bonds (66.7% of voters have to approve), worthy investments supported by a majority of voters sometimes fail on the first vote. If the legislation passes in the Senate, school districts will have their hands tied when they are strapped for funding. Desperate schools that have a collapsed ceiling or 40 kids in a classroom will have to wait for at least a year to find a solution.
Idaho is failing our children on many fronts. Every year, the legislature chips away at their safety and their opportunities. Democratic legislators have been able to stop some of the worst legislation that has come to our desks but, every year we are overpowered on battles that negatively impact Idaho’s children.
A prosperous future for Idaho depends on a legislature that is committed to our children.
We hope Idaho voters will hold their legislators accountable and demand that they start putting children first.