Idaho legislators will return to their 2021 session tomorrow [Tuesday] after a two-week recess. They took time off to allow a mini-Covid outbreak involving six House members to pass.
One of the items on their agenda: a second vote on accepting an early education grant. It was defeated because of concerns about the content of the curriculum.
Last month, Rep. Paul Amador [R-Coeur d'Alene] asked his colleagues to approve a measure allowing the state to accept a six-million dollar, three-year federal early childhood education grant. It has the support of the governor, Idaho’s two U.S. senators and one congressman.
Amador says the money would help Idaho communities develop strategies to deal with local child care shortages, exacerbated in part by the Covid pandemic.
“Part of the basis for this grant is understanding what those needs are among families and providing as much support as we can provide from a community’s perspective," he said.
The grant would be administered by a non-profit, the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, which would be overseen by the state Board of Education.
In most legislative sessions, that would be a routine item. This year, though, the grant ran into stiff opposition from Rep. Priscilla Giddings [R-White Bird]. In House debate, she said she found the non-profit has a social justice ideology.
“Social justice ideology is not about providing justice. It’s divisive in its very nature. It creates two groups of people. You have aggrieved minorities and you have oppressive majorities and it compromises the dreams of assimilating diverse people into our great American melting pot and, thus, it hurts the free exchange of ideas," she said.
Giddings and 35 of her colleagues voted against the bill. It lost by two votes.
“I think, probably, the biggest issue for me is that somehow this grant is anti-family and that, in some way, it would take away from the social structure of the family. That, to me, is a complete myth," Amador said during a media call in which he said he's trying the bill again.
During the Monday call, Latah County kindergarten teacher Angie Tweit reinforced Amador’s call. She says the grant will help people in the towns of Kendrick and Juliaetta as they develop more child care options.
“It’s local. It’s meeting with teachers, parents, grandparents, the store owners who are telling us their workers are calling in sick because they don’t have anywhere for their child to go," she said.
Amador says he has tweaked the bill to strengthen the state’s oversight over the grant money. He expects it to be reintroduced this week in hopes that it can be quickly approved.