Week 2, Learning about the Education Funding Formula
The pace sped up this week in Boise. All committees are meeting to review rules and the first few bills are being introduced. Unfortunately, I got a bad cold this week and spent Wednesday watching the session from my bed. You can actually get a lot of content that way!
School Funding Formula Redesign
One big issue moving forward is a redesign of the way we distribute money to school districts and charter schools in Idaho. The redesign will affect every school in Idaho. The process is a bit like replumbing your house. You’re not changing the amount of water you use, just where it goes and how it gets there. To extend the analogy, you have to rip up a lot of walls, floors, and ceilings to get the job done and can create a big mess.
I have already heard from our Benewah and Latah County School Superintendents with their concerns about the redesign, and I remain skeptical as well. There is a lot of potential to create winners and losers in a zero-sum process like this, and I think it misses the mark on providing a better education to all our kids. My goal, as the process continues, is to protect funding for our rural schools and also make sure the new system is understandable and really does deliver on its goals.
Southwest Idaho Treatment Center
One very distressing report this week was about the Southwest Idaho Treatment Center (SWITC) in Nampa. This center, which had been a long-term home for almost 1,000 developmentally disabled people, has become a center for fewer than 20. According to a report released this week, the center exhibited “symptoms of organizational trauma.” That was just one of several negative findings documented in the report released by the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee (JLOC).
Rep. Mat Erpelding/(D-Boise), who co-chairs JLOC and presided over this week’s hearing, said: “This report is worse than I could have ever imagined. The Executive Summary makes it clear that SWITC failed every Idahoan. It is obvious from this report the state must fundamentally change the way it manages crisis care and patient treatment at the facility.”
As a side note I want to highlight the work of the Office of Performance Evaluation. At the direction of the legislature, they scrutinize and analyze stores of information to answer the question of whether state government programs and agencies are operating efficiently and cost-effectively and are achieving intended results. I have found lots of good information in their reports. Their report on SWITC is both enlightening and shocking.
Meeting with Constituents
Every week at the legislature I meet with many people and I enjoy seeing people from district 5. This week Steve Becker of Genesee and Dave Huggins from Moscow were down representing the Soil Conservation districts. I enjoyed learning about their work and how I could help them from Boise.
There are a lot of new members in the legislature this year and one thing we all get asked is what it’s like to work as a legislator. One of my new Democratic colleagues, Rep. Brooke Green, was featured on the first episode of NPR’s podcast, “Legislative Breakdown”, answering this question. It’s a fun and interesting piece with a great introduction to Brooke. I highly recommend this weekly podcast on the legislature.
District 5 – Upcoming Discussion Sessions
I will be back in District 5 on January 26th when the Moscow Chamber of Commerce will host representatives Troy, Goesling and myself for a coffee and discussion session, beginning at 9:00 a.m. at the Chamber office, 411 S. Main Street.
The Moscow Chamber will also host us for discussion sessions again on February 9 and 23, and March 9 and 23.
I would like to meet for lunch with people somewhere in Latah County. Care to invite me?
I will be back in Moscow on February 2 (Saturday) for Pizza and Politics with Mat Erpelding (House Minority Leader) at the HIRC, 1724 East F St., Moscow beginning at noon and hosted by the Latah County Democrats.
I also am going to be in District 5 on many other Saturdays will be meeting through the district. If you would like to meet, contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 208 301-2266. I’ll share more details on events as they get planned.