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Carlson: Cry, Beloved Idaho

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Occasionally politics gives rise to an all-encompassing phrase that means more than the words themselves. During the mid-1950’s Senate hearings on the excesses of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting rhetoric the committee counsel asked a memorable question: “Have you no decency, Senator?

It was and remains a classic rhetorical question, one which answers itself.

In the wake of a recent report people who care about this state and its future should be asking Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter the same question. More pointedly, they should be asking the governor, as well as State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, whether each honestly believes he is upholding their oath of office.

For those that do care about Idaho’s future – its children and their education, the evidence is overwhelmingly clear a convincing case can be made both could be charged with “dereliction of duty” and violation of their oaths.

Idaho’s Constitution is unequivocally clear that the primary duty of the state is to maintain a uniform and thorough system of public and free schools. No less an authority than the state’s former chief economist, Mike Ferguson, who ably served five Idaho governors and has an impeccable reputation for objectivity and honesty, has through the center he operates (The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy) issued a report that says the state is not fulfilling its constitutional mandate.

Dear Governor and State Superintendent, answer these questions honestly and preface each with an “Are you proud. . . .”:

1) of the indisputable fact public school funding in Idaho as a share of state spending has dropped precipitously since the year 2000?

2) that Idaho now ranks last in the nation in state spending per pupil?

3) that 25% of Idaho’s third graders cannot read at their grade level?

4) that recent years have seen a significant number of Idaho teachers leave the state?

5) that most teachers feel their role in educating children is continually denigrated by your actions and that Idaho’s Teacher of the Year decries your attacks on her profession?

6) that almost 70 percent of Idaho’s 117 school districts now have to turn to over-ride levies to survive your gamesmanship whereby you claim to hold the line on taxes but by underfunding public education force patrons of school districts to tax themselves to replace what you’ve cut?

7) of Idaho’s proliferation of charter schools which further decrease public support within districts for the public schools with a diversion of funds to a different form of private, self-selected schools?

8) that more Idahoans are giving up altogether on the public schools and are turning to homeschooling?

9) that the Idaho Legislature continues to ignore the Idaho Supreme Court mandate to more suitably fund and maintain the physical facilities within Idaho school districts?

10) Finally, do you really believe voters won’t see how much of your “Students Come First” program is a payback to computer service providers who coincidentally happen to be major contributors to your campaigns and to the Republican Party?

This list could go on. Governor Otter and Tom Luna are the worst friends education has ever had in Idaho. The sad thing is they believe their own rhetoric; the fact most educators and anyone that knows anything about education disagree means nothing. Their “Students Come First” is the classic Big Lie. They are perfect practitioners of the Herman Goering School of propaganda – just keep repeating the lie.

The Luna/Otter reforms should be nailed by voters for the lunacy they are and repealed in November, but watch those that benefit from marketing their computers to the state pour tons of money into television advertising hoping to fool voters into thinking otherwise.

Some folks are aware the Governor strums an electric guitar. Most know he says he is going to run again. If so, the perfect campaign theme song for his appearances is Garth Brooks’ “American Honky-Tonk Bar Association,” especially these two verses:

When Uncle Sam dips in your pocket
For most things you don’t mind.
But when your dollar goes to all of those
Standing in a welfare line;
Well rejoice you have a voice.
If you’re concerned about the destination
Of this great nation:
It’s called the American Honky-Tonk Bar Association.

It represents the hardhat,
Gun-rack, achin’-back
Over-taxed, flag-wavin’, fun-lovin’ crowd.
Their heart is in the music,
And they love to play it loud;
There’s no forms or applications;
There’s no red tape administrations:
It’s the American Honky-tonk Bar Association!

Why does Butch strumming and singing this song make me think of Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns. Cry, beloved Idaho.

Chris Carlson is a writer at Medimont, Idaho.

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