A joint committee meeting was held at the Statehouse last week to discuss combining most of Oregon and parts of northern California with the Gem State to create Greater Idaho. Meanwhile, legislators in the House rejected HB 354, part of the public school budget that funds teachers because of concerns over “critical race theory” being taught in Idaho public schools.
The Idaho Legislature again demonstrated that it’s more concerned with “fighting” culture wars than with its real responsibilities, like ensuring teachers receive training to be even better at their jobs. If our legislature refuses to do the work to help current Idahoans, how can it even consider adding enough land mass to Idaho that it becomes the third-largest state?
Shifting state borders would require approval at the county, state and federal level, so this proposal is still a long way off from becoming reality. Still, the movement, pushed by a group called Move Oregon’s Border, has gained more momentum than we expected. Four Oregon counties so far have voted on the border initiative; two were opposed and two were in favor. The organizers are hoping to add initiatives in at least five more counties for the May election.
Move Oregon’s Border organizers say one benefit to Idahoans would be the ability to alleviate future overcrowding in Idaho through more land. But Idaho has trouble keeping up with the needs it already has. Schools, police and fire, and roads are all functions of government that have suffered from lack of funding. In absorbing a majority of Oregon and even parts of northern California, Idaho would gain thousands of miles of rural roads needing upkeep. The city of Shoshone recently dissolved its city police department, and instead will rely on county police; the city was having trouble hiring and retaining staff. Funding for rural schools in Idaho is inadequate at best, and relies heavily on bonds and levies to get by.
Our legislators can barely take care of the constituents they have now, so adding roughly 1 million more people is not a prudent choice.
We appreciate that there are so many people feeling lost and underrepresented in their home state. In this age of polarization, everyone is feeling more and more alone. It’s incredibly alienating to not see your values and ideas reflected in your state government. But joining Idaho isn’t the solution. The grass is always greener, but we are dysfunctional and quirky just like every other state in the union. Our legislators struggle to stay on task during the session, pursuing silly side projects that score them political points (and praise from the Idaho Freedom Foundation), rather than ensuring all Idahoans are able to flourish.
HB 354 contains money for development and training, and also includes the teacher career ladder pay increases required by law; Idaho teachers didn’t get those because of budget holdbacks this year, and this bill would distribute those.
The legislature is charged in the Idaho Constitution with providing a uniform education for all citizens. We don’t see how denying teachers development and pay is a good way to achieve this mandate.
We hope that, just for the last week or two, our legislators can stay on topic. Pass the budgets and finish up the essential business needed to keep our government functioning.
Winning culture wars isn’t an achievable goal. Educating Idahoans is.