www.spokesman.com Jun 11, 2020
All too often, the concerns of Idaho’s smallest citizens, its children, are not fully considered in the Idaho Legislature. It is that time of year to answer a key question: “Does my voice in the Legislature support what I believe is important?” To help answer that question, we have narrowed the focus to an area of near-unanimous priority in Idaho: the health, education, and well-being of our children – an understandably common value, as Idaho is a “young” state. In 2018, 25% of Idahoans were 18 or younger, ranking us among the five youngest states in the nation.
No matter your party affiliation, ideology or background, it is agreed among Idahoans that we should work toward a better life for the next generation. Decades from now, some of us may not be here, but our focus on children today will show in their level of achievement and their ability to weather difficult situations, such as the one we are facing now. Taking care of our kids in the present means better economic growth, more stable communities and the ability of Idaho businesses to be competitive in the future. It is more than an investment in human capital; we simply call it “the right thing to do.”
No legislator will campaign as being “anti-child.” The true test is how they vote. For instance, do you know if your senator voted for or against health and safety standards in your niece’s daycare this past session? Do you know if your representative voted to keep highly qualified staff at your son’s elementary school? Or to raise the minimum age of marriage to 16 years old? Or to limit youth access to vaping products, just like tobacco? Shouldn’t knowledge about these votes change the way YOU would vote in the upcoming election? These issues are what drive true change and move the dial on things such as literacy rates, childhood obesity, high school graduation, college attendance and even prison recidivism.
To help bring children’s issues to the forefront, we have formed Idaho Children Are Primary (ICAP), which will oversee a bill evaluation system called the Kids Matter Index. ICAP represents a diverse group of Republicans and Democrats, policy makers, business leaders, educators, physicians and other child experts. Despite our different backgrounds and agendas, we all have the same goal in mind when it comes to policy and legislation: bringing the welfare of Idaho children to the forefront.
Our mission is to highlight children’s issues when they come up. Starting in January 2021, for every bill pertaining to children before the Idaho Legislature, we will be asking the question: Is this good for Idaho’s kids? We will help voters and legislators alike make informed decisions by providing evidence-based data on each bill whenever possible. At the end of session, we will publish the voting history of each legislator based on the Kids Matter Index. Our intention is not to point fingers, but to highlight opportunity. In fact, when we scored 10 child-related bills from this past session, nearly half of legislators voted decidedly pro-child, in agreement with ICAP’s position an average of 90% of the time.
Yes, we CAN reduce high school dropout rates, decrease teen suicide, increase kindergarten readiness and improve children’s health, but to do all these things, we need dedicated legislators voting for the interests of children and families. Lawmakers’ actions – or inaction – determine whether Idaho children are growing up healthy, staying safe and walking into classrooms prepared to learn. This is what we all want for our kids: a strong economy, communities filled with opportunities, and an environment where all kids can reach their potential. With your informed vote, we can elect policy makers who will vote for a brighter future for all of Idaho’s children.
Are you registered to vote? Have you requested your absentee ballot to vote on Nov. 3? Go to idahovotes.org and insure your vote will be cast and counted!
Submitted by the Advisory Board of Idaho Children Are Primary (idahochildrenareprimary.org), consisting of: Trent Clark, president & CEO of Customalting, former regional spokesperson for Bayer, Soda Springs; Staci Darmody, master’s in Theological Studies, Boise; Patricia Kempthorne, chair of Parents as Teachers, former Idaho first lady; Alicia Lachiondo, pediatrician M.D., spokesperson for Get Immunized Idaho, Boise; Cristina Leon, pediatric cardiologist D.O,. Pocatello; Luke Malek, former Idaho legislator, attorney Smith + Malek, Coeur d’Alene; John Rusche, former Idaho legislator, retired pediatrician M.D., Lewiston; Chris Streeter, Children’s Center for Neurobehavioral Medicine M.D., Boise; Cindy Wilson, Nationally Recognized Educator, Meridian