After over 20 years as a teacher, in Idaho, Colorado and as an exchange teacher in New Zealand, I understand the importance of quality schools—for students, for communities and for the future. And the only way to guarantee a better future for all is to develop quality public schools. That is our responsibility, as citizens of this state. The movement toward more private schools, charters and voucher systems (as seen in the March legislative session) ultimately takes money away from public schools, and widens the economic gap. When more privileged kids attend well-financed, safe schools with motivated teachers and creative curriculums, while the less privileged go to decaying schools, with over-worked, underpaid teachers, who are forced to teach to mandated tests, the result is clear. The gap between rich and poor widens with every generation. It's not a delusion; it's an agenda from the majority in the legislature. And it's not an agenda for a better future in Idaho. Good public schools are part of a different agenda—one that's equitable and beneficial for everyone. Good schools attract and keep good teachers; they produce well-educated workers who want to stay in Idaho and raise their own kids.
In my first race for the legislature, I am learning the degree to which money has tarnished politics. At this point, corporations control our political system, and many of us can't hope to compete in a race we can't afford; nor do we want to participate in a system so corrupt. We ask, "In the middle of a struggling economy, why should a campaign, even at a state level, cost thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars?" It doesn't. Candidates often accept exorbitant donations in exchange for voting in a company's best interest. They become pawns, not thinking representatives. When the process for creating legislation in our state is no longer about debate and conversation, but instead about monetary exchange, we need change. We can all follow the campaign financing process by checking the Secretary of State's website. As true leaders, we need to stop wasteful spending, beginning with our own campaigns.
—This isn't an easy time. But instead of waiting for things to change, we need to expand our scope of possibility.
We can study:
--What markets are up-and-coming that could apply to us. The general public is beginning to demand untarnished foods (vegetables that are free of cancer-causing chemicals, grass-fed meat, and poultry that isn't kept in cages, to name a few). Why not anticipate that market and meet it head-on, making the transitions necessary to provide those products now instead of later? Our part of the state still contains acres of soil that is healthy and water than is clean. I would work for incentives that could help small, healthy, farms make a start, and reward creativity.
--What industries could be renewed on a small scale without damaging our land, air, watershed or wildlife populations? Many of our early industries gave our small towns pride and purpose (like the sawmill in McCall). But they weren't economically sustainable, or the costs to the land, water and air were too high. While we can't afford to go backwards on those priorities, we can do some research and we can re-consider some of the industries we've left behind, and which we've replaced with tourism. Tourism can be a profitable way to support a town, until times get tough and the tourists don't show up. The men and women who settled the West had to work hard and get creative. We can do it again.
Some ideas include
-specialty wood products, logged on a SMALL scale
-geo-thermal energy, utilizing the abundance of hot springs in Idaho
-higher education, like the proposed McCall College
-organic potato seed (which is not available in Idaho!)
-quinoa (a grain grown at high altitudes and in great demand)
-mining in areas previously mined (like Stibnite)
These aren't answers; they are ideas. I would push for funding for innovation in our state. We can encourage, anticipate and create a new and better future.