Democrats to Budget Committee: Meet the Needs of Today’s Students

Democrats to Budget Committee:
Meet the Needs of Today’s Students

BOISE – The state’s budget committee has recommended a K-12 budget that is inadequate to meet the needs of Idaho’s children. While the recommendation offers schools more resources—including much-needed investments in teachers’ pay—it’s short of what we need today to give students a competitive edge in a global economy.

The appropriation omits a program to make rural school districts more competitive, undercuts professional development for teachers, and shortchanges technology advances in the classroom. In fact, it falls below recommendations by both Superintendent Sherri Ybarra and Governor Otter.

Schools have endured years of fiscal instability. Now, 94 of 115 school districts fund some essential services through property-tax levies—which amounts to legislative tax hikes on regular Idahoans. Idaho Democratic Legislators do not support forcing Idahoans to pay higher property taxes. Accountable and efficient use of tax dollars is important, but sufficient resources are important, too.

“Public education is our most essential investment. Schools shouldn’t have to live ‘hand to mouth.’ It is no way to invest in our children,” said House Minority Leader, Rep. John Rusche. “Idaho Democrats will continue to work for accountable and appropriate K-12 funding.”

While this budget shows some progress, shortchanging schools fails to prepare Idaho’s children for a 21st-century economy. Until the committee and both chambers invest in a complete education plan that provides adequate funding to our schools, a full school week, and a safe learning environment, there’s unfinished business in the Statehouse.

Democratic legislators are committed to further strides for the success of our students and schools.

The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb

BoiseEach year, the nation pauses to honor the legacy and the deep societal impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He is remembered primarily for his work to ensure that all Americans had access to basic civil rights. As the first elected African-American state legislator in Idaho, I am especially thankful for Dr. King’s work. I also want to lift up Dr. King’s work and focus on two issues that are still of paramount importance today: economic equality for all people and supporting peace.

Shortly before his death, Dr. King was working on a campaign to eradicate poverty and “dramatize the reality of joblessness and deprivation by bringing those excluded from the economy to the doorstep of the nation’s leaders.” As an elected leader, I take my responsibility to act in the best interests of my constituents very seriously. I urge my Congressional colleagues to do the same.

Here in Idaho, we have an unemployment rate of 3.9%, yet 15.5% of Idahoans live below the poverty line. While we’re not the worst in the nation, we certainly want to do better. It takes a federal-state partnership focused on investing in the right programs to make sure that our economy is healthy.

States cannot adequately invest in the programs that serve our nation’s citizens and keep them healthy, employed, and thriving when our nation’s federal budget is focused so heavily on weapons and wars. The Pentagon consumes more than half of all federal discretionary spending that Congress votes on each year, and this needs to change. It is vital that we spend what is needed to stay safe from 21st century threats and provide for our troops, but we must also ensure that we meet the needs of the population here at home.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an advocate for peaceful resolution to conflict and took an outspoken stance against war. In his famous speech against the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

Throughout our history, Americans have successfully negotiated agreements demonstrating how successful diplomacy can be in averting war and addressing serious security threats. With that in mind, I urge my colleagues, locally and nationally, to continue to strive to make the pursuit of peace a top priority.

Our nation’s leaders have a moral obligation to set this nation on a path toward a stable economic future, to spend wisely and to tax fairly, and to invest in a more peaceful future. We must focus on helping us build a strong, vibrant, and durable economy and a safe homeland. We cannot continue to invest in outdated weapons programs like our oversized nuclear weapons arsenal that are not appropriate for modern threats or cost effective. We must reshape our federal budget priorities to ensure that we take care of our most vulnerable citizens and do our part to realize the legacy of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Senator Cherie Buckner-Webb represents District 19. She is a 2014  winner of the Gandhi, King, Ikeda award for Peace and Justice and a State Director for the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL), a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

Idaho must invest in education to build a better tomorrow

Senate Assistant Minority Leader – Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb

Between layoffs and budget cuts, public schools are suffering. Each year, public school teachers spend more than $400 of their own money to pay for school supplies, instructional materials and other items required for student learning. This adds up to $1.8 billion in out-of-pocket expenses for teachers across the U.S.

The challenges facing our students are not only economic, but educational as well. Many experts believe the U.S. is falling behind in equipping students with the skills they need to be successful in today’s global economy. Development of a highly skilled STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workforce that is prepared to meet business and societal needs, and compete in a global marketplace, must be a priority.

A growing percentage of jobs in the modern economy, including many positions at Idaho’s largest employers — Micron Technology Inc., St. Luke’s Health System, Hewlett Packard and others — are technical and require proficiency in STEM subjects. In 2011, 20 percent of all U.S. jobs (26 million positions) required knowledge in one STEM field. That number is estimated to grow 17 percent by 2018, compared with only 9.8 percent growth for all other fields combined. Despite the growing demand for technical jobs, science and math achievement scores in the U.S. are below those of other developed countries.

We, community leaders, educational organizations, governments and nongovernmental organizations, must collaborate in the development of innovative funding solutions to provide our students with hands-on learning opportunities in STEM-based education and equip them with the critical skills they will need to succeed in the jobs of the future. Additionally, parental and community involvement is imperative in helping to improve STEM education in our community and develop a highly skilled workforce.

Community members can support local schools and students by volunteering and donating through organizations like, which allows anyone to contribute to a classroom project posted by teachers. The process enables people in the community to direct a donation to a specific teacher, classroom or project and to see how those contributions are used.

Corporations can also play an important role in making it easy for communities to come together and help one another while supporting their own social responsibility platform. For example, the Fuel Your School program — a collaboration between and Chevron — helped generate $250,000 last year to deliver needed school supplies and materials to local public schools. This successful program has returned to Idaho for its second year. During the month of October, for every 8 gallons purchased at a participating Chevron or Texaco station, $1 will be donated, up to $250,000, to help fund materials and supplies for local public classrooms in Ada and Canyon counties. Visit for more information.

Whether you’re actively involved in education or have a vested interest in the improvement of education in our country and state, we can all help to drive this important issue forward.

Teachers: Please post a project on

Community leaders and members: Please help spread the word, donate to charities and online funding organizations like, and volunteer at your local school.

Corporations: Please continue to invest in a thriving future workforce and find ways to contribute to local students and educators.

A little goes a long way, and we all have the opportunity to work together to help ensure our students receive a world-class education and graduate prepared to make a difference.

Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb is an Idaho state senator representing the 19th District. Serving on the Senate Education Committee, she is an advocate for students and schools and committed to bolstering Idaho’s future workforce by helping corporations develop education-supporting programs.

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