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Dwelling in Beulah land

carlson CHRIS


Occasionally my dear departed mother would turn and say “quit dwelling in Beulah land.” It means get out of your fantasy world and start dealing with reality; work with facts, not fantasies.

There’s a major disconnect between the real and the surreal is another way of stating it.

If ever there is a walking personification of this it is Idaho’s charming but terribly out of it governor, C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Perusing a copy of the North Idaho Business Journal’s December issue recently, I came across a “no coincidences” juxtaposition of an article and an ad. The top of the page was a headline from a speech to a business group by Governor Otter. It said “Otter: D.C. Can Learn from Idaho.”

The bottom half was an ad by the “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign financed by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Headlined “We Fail, She Loses,” the ad portrayed a young child looking quite pensive, as she should given the deplorable record established by the governor and his fellow travelers for starving systematically state support for public education.

As the ad says, our children will be the ones to carry Idaho forward. It continues: But when it comes to preparing them for the challenges ahead, Idaho is falling behind. Education Week ranked Idaho 48thnationally. And only 1 in 10 Idaho high school freshmen are graduating from college with a degree. . . . .

We can do better. . . . Let’s get to an educated state.

Turn now to the governor’s speech. Incredibly, he brags about having inherited a $3.2 billion budget in 2007 but by 2010 having reduced it to $2.2 billion. In reality this is bragging about having eviscerated public k-12 and higher education. Its chutzpah reflecting misplaced priorities and a distorted world view.

The governor rationalizes his administration figured out what was truly “necessary” as opposed to what was “nice.” By his definition adequate supplies for school children and decent salaries for teachers are nice but not necessities. He is claiming he found $1 billion worth of “nice.”

Then he repeats the Big Republican Lie – but we didn’t increase your taxes! Pure balderdash. Almost 3 out of four Idaho school districts passed supplemental levies to replace the funding cut by the state. That’s a tax pure and simple directly attributable to the parsimonious governor and a cohort of education hating legislators.

The governor then further demonstrates how much he is dwelling in Beulah land. He says it is important for Idaho to prepare its students to meet Idaho’s future job needs. He recites an anecdote from a business leader who told him he can’t hire the product Idaho schools are currently putting out. Otter also cites college administrators deploring the large number of remedial students that have to attend basic classes to learn what they should have been taught in the k-12 system.

Oh, but he has a Task Force on Education Reform and has accepted all of its recommendations including the first one that says restore the $350 million cut from education budgets. You betcha – we’ll do it over five years at $70 million a pop.

Oh, and while we’re at it the Legislative leadership and I have decided to pass along some additional property tax relief to the big private corporations like Idaho Power that support us. What? They say they don’t need it nor are asking for it? Well, we’ll give it to them anyway and we’ll still restore that ed funding. If you can swallow this bilge water Butch is peddling I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

The governor acts like this deplorable decline did not happen on his watch, but it has. The number of fourth graders who cannot read yet across Idaho is shocking, but will he or the State Superintendent, Tom Luna, or the chairs of the Senate and House Education committees, John Goedde and Reed Demourdant, stand up and take some degree of responsibility?

Don’t hold your breath. The sad truth is the “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign is too late. Governor Otter and the majority of Republican legislators (there are some notable exceptions – King Canute’s swinging at the relentless ocean waves of the cut, cut mentality) have so eviscerated funding for public and higher education that it will be years before the state recovers.

They have failed Idaho and its children and would rather dwell in Beulah land. Either they just don’t get it, or they don’t care. Any way you slice it, Idaho is losing badly the fight to have a prepared, educated generation of students able to compete against the world.

Governor Otter and his legislative lackeys ought to be ashamed, but they have no shame.

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