Latest News on State, District, County Races & Issues

Updated and current news from media, political parties, candidates and election officials

One of the nation’s reddest states could become a ranked choice battleground

Author | August 21, 2023 

When Reclaim Idaho, a nonpartisan open government group, announced earlier this year that it was going to mount a voter initiative to eliminate closed primaries in the state and implement an Alaska-style ranked choice system, many traditional Republicans saw it as the answer to their prayers. Independents, who comprise more than 27 percent of the electorate, also rejoiced because they had essentially been excluded from choosing governmental leaders. I am a founding member of Veterans for Idaho Voters, which is part of the coalition supporting Reclaim Idaho.

But Republican Party leadership recoiled in fear because Reclaim had established a record of success with initiatives, using only unpaid volunteer signature-gatherers. The organization ran a successful initiative in 2018 to expand Idaho’s Medicaid program, garnering 61 percent of the vote. The group gathered enough signatures to put an initiative on the 2022 ballot to substantially increase public school funding. That caused Republicans to call a special session of the legislature to increase spending slightly more than the initiative, which accomplished what Reclaim was trying to achieve.

Read in The Hill

Judge disqualifies attorney general from State Board lawsuit

Author | August 28, 2023 

Attorney General Raúl Labrador has been disqualified from his open meetings lawsuit against the State Board of Education, according to a Friday ruling from Judge Jason D. Scott.

The order came just one day after a court hearing on the board’s motion to disqualify.

Labrador has until Sept. 5 to find new counsel.

On June 20, the attorney general sued the State Board, claiming the board violated open meetings law when it discussed the University of Idaho’s proposed acquisition of the University of Phoenix in closed executive session.

In response, State Board lawyer Trudy Fouser filed a motion to disqualify Labrador from the case, citing a June 20 phone call in which Labrador (accompanied by Solicitor General Theodore Wold) allegedly sought privileged information from State Board Executive Director Matt Freeman before announcing his plan to file a lawsuit.

Read in the Idaho Education News

OPINION: A moderate sign from Idaho’s reddest county

Editorial: The Tribune’s Opinion | September 3, 2023 

That doesn’t necessarily translate into an ideological shift in the reddest of Idaho’s red counties. But it does tell you something about what Idahoans of all political stripes want from their schools.

They want qualified teachers and administrators. Instead, Durst had no classroom or administrative experience and required a waiver from state rules to hold his new job.

What he did was wear his politics on his sleeve, a nonstarter in an administrative role that engages in such nonpartisan matters as recruiting and retaining qualified teachers, finding resources to keep schools open and raising test scores. School superintendents are not there to proselytize.

They want stability. On top of a defeated supplemental levy that undermined the district’s finances, what West Bonner County patrons got was the new leader ousting the school district’s administrative employees, replacing them with outsiders, including the wife of a noted alt-right figure tied to the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. At the same time, there was talk of teachers leaving the district in large numbers.

Read in the Lewiston Tribune

Bonner County voters show how to stand up for public education

Author | September 5, 2023 

And, boy did the voters of West Bonner County School District (WBCSD) rise up and repudiate the IFF-supported trustees who took over the board in a low-turnout election in 2021. Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown, together with a third IFF-supported trustee, have had WBCSD in turmoil ever since that election. Most notably, they hired Branden Durst, an unqualified IFF henchman, as superintendent of schools. It all came to a head on August 29, when a massive voter turnout recalled those two trustees in a landslide vote exceeding 60%.

After the election, Mr. Durst hatched a desperate scheme to tie the hands of the incoming trustees and keep his job. He was taken to court for trying to overturn the will of the voters. The judge correctly saw the maneuver as an effort to subvert the law and brought it to an abrupt halt.

Read in Idaho Education News

Idaho: Help Us Show Readers and Officials Issues With Your School Building

By BECCA SAVRANSKY Idaho Statesman, and ASIA FIELDS, ProPublica
Author | August 30, 2023 

The Idaho Statesman and ProPublica are reporting on poor conditions in school buildings. We need your stories and photos to show how the issues affect students and staff.

Read in Pro Publica

Voters recall WBCSD trustees

Author | August 30, 2023 

Voters have successfully recalled West Bonner County School District trustees Keith Rutledge and Susan Brown.

With all five precincts reporting, in Zone 4 there were 762 votes to recall Rutledge, or 62.66%, compared to 454 votes against, or 37.34%. In Zone 2, there were 624 votes to recall Brown, or 65.96%, compared to 322 against, or 34.04%.

In Zone 2, in early voting and absentee ballots, there were 121 votes to recall Brown to 40 against, 75.16% to 24.84%. In Zone 4, in early voting and absentee ballots, there were 168 votes to recall Rutledge to 54 against, 75.68% to 24.32%

For the recall to be successful, at least 245 people needed to vote in favor of removing Rutledge from office, and be at least one vote more than those seeking to retain him. For Brown, those seeking to remove her from office needed to total at least 177 votes and be at least one vote more than those seeking to retain her.

Read in the Bonner County Daily Bee

‘Dangerous trend’: Idaho Republicans push back at party censures over ‘extreme policies’

Author | August 28, 2023 

Lori McCann decided she couldn’t sit back and take it anymore, she told the Idaho Statesman. The Republican lawmaker announced Aug. 15 that she had been censured by her own party for the third time this year — this time by the Latah County Republican Central Committee, over votes she cast during the 2023 legislative session. “It’s a bigger issue than just me and Latah County,” McCann told the Statesman in an interview. “It’s about Idaho GOP politics and what’s going on in our entire state. There’s a lot of mistreatment against some real good legislators who are more in the middle or are trying to work with all the Republicans.“

Read in the Idaho Statesman

Vote yes on recall of WBCSD trustees

Author | August 20, 2023 

Please vote Aug. 29 to ensure that current and future students have the opportunities to develop their unique skills and talents. The schools need a broad-based and solid core curriculum with sports, language, music, arts, vocational skills, and subjects that will prepare them for the future. Whether students stay in the community or leave the area, we need to create an educated populace who will recognize when local boards are being taken over by bullies and tyrants.

My dad fought these fascists and Nazis in Italy and Germany. Now is the time to fight them here on our home front. What the majority board is doing is un-American and must be stopped.

Read in the Bonner County Daily Bee

Long a power seeker, Branden Durst now has his own little kingdom in North Idaho

Author | June 12, 2023 

The board of the West Bonner County School District made a terrible decision Wednesday night. Given a choice between local longtime educator and principal Susie Luckey and serial political entrepreneur Branden Durst, the board went with the career politician. Though Durst has degrees relevant to education, he has no comparable experience in the field. Luckey, who was named National Distinguished Principal for Idaho in 2018, had it in spades and had been running the district well as interim superintendent by all accounts. It’s unclear what the trustees thought they could gain by overlooking the more qualified and level-headed candidate for a serial political entrepreneur.

Read in the Idaho Statesman

State Board of Education rejects West Bonner’s request for corrective action

Author | August 3, 2023 

West Bonner superintendent Branden Durst’s belief that a State Board of Education error prevents him from applying for an emergency provisional certificate is inaccurate.

Through a public records request, EdNews obtained written correspondence between West Bonner and the State Board. According to a letter from executive director Matt Freeman to West Bonner School Board chairman Keith Rutledge, the district’s interpretation of Idaho code is wrong.

“You signed the attestation in the form. Your signature appears to match that of your July 7th letter,” Freeman responded in the letter to Rutledge. “If an emergency did not exist, it is unclear why the district would have hired (Susan) Luckey to serve as superintendent at its March 17th meeting.”

The clock is ticking. Durst previously told the patrons of West Bonner that he will lead the district with a provisional certificate, a task he thought he was unable to complete because of a perceived discrepancy with Luckey’s provisional certificate.

Durst needs an emergency certificate because he did not meet all the requirements to obtain a superintendent endorsement when the district hired him, which caused an outcry in the small community of Priest River. The hiring of Durst launched an effort to recall two trustees, Rutledge and Susan Brown. They face an Aug. 29 recall election.

Read in the Idaho Education News

Idaho Supreme Court gives AG one day to rewrite initiative titles

Author | August 10, 2023 

The Idaho Supreme Court has thrown out a set of initiative titles from Attorney General Raúl Labrador’s office, which described a package of election reforms proposed to be placed on the ballot. A Thursday afternoon opinion ordered the attorney general to provide the court with new “revised, substantially compliant” ballot titles by 4 p.m. on Friday.

Read in the Idaho Reports

How A New Idaho Superintendent Is Tapping Far-Right Connections To Refashion A School District

Author | July 26, 2023 

In his first month, Durst has replaced three district employees with his own temporary picks, hinting at what those changes might look like. That includes replacing the district’s business manager with Melissa Reilly, wife of Dave Reilly, one of North Idaho’s most infamous figures on the alt-right, a trollish network of internet savvy racist and antisemitic groups that arose during the Trump era. In 2017, Dave Reilly attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, sporting a pin with the logo of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa.

Durst, however, said he knows Dave Reilly better than most people and doesn’t actually have any problem with him.

“You may not like somebody, I don’t care,” Durst said. “If they’re friendly to me, if they don’t do things that I find morally repugnant that I’m aware of, I’m not going to hold that against them.”

Reilly has objected to those who call him a white nationalist or an “antisemite.” But an archive of more than 5,000 deleted tweets that Dave Reilly wrote between 2019 and 2021, reviewed by InvestigateWest,make it clear that Reilly made contempt toward Jewish people a defining part of his worldview.

Read in Investigate West

Nearly 23,000 Idaho children lost health insurance for not filling out paperwork, data shows

Author | August 15, 2023 

At least 55,300 Idaho children have lost access to Medicaid health insurance since April as the state continues to disenroll people from the program after pandemic-era protections have ended, data recently released by the state health department shows.

The data, which includes numbers through the end of July, shows more than 33,111 of those 55,300 children were part of a group of Idahoans called Medicaid Protection, who were flagged to be removed from the program — either for being ineligible, or because they didn’t respond to the state’s requests for information. The child disenrollment data for Idaho was provided by Idaho Voices of Children and was obtained from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare through a public records request.

Read in the Idaho Capital Sun 

From ‘separation of church and state’ to ‘conservatism,’ West Bonner leader fields variety of questions

Author | August 4, 2023 

There were the expected questions about curriculum, finance and extracurricular programs, but parents also pressed for answers about his conservative ideology, political aspirations and his personal views on the separation of church and state.

“I want to prove to those folks in the educational establishment that we can do things differently, that you can be conservative — and lead conservatively — and you can lead a district to the greatest heights it’s ever seen,” he said.

Because Durst used the term conservative in conjunction with leadership, someone asked for more explanation. 

Under his leadership, Durst said, the district will scrutinize carefully how money is spent to ensure that “every penny” is accounted for and being used appropriately.

Being fiscally conservative drew little to no reaction from the audience. But what did cause a visceral reaction was his statement that “we need to be the Florida of the United States.” 

The audience could be heard cackling, audibly moaning and chuckling.

“It may be in a different way than you like it, but at the end of the day, that’s why I’m here,” he said.

Another person asked for clarification about when he would apply for this emergency provisional certificate. If granted by the State Board of Education, the certificate would allow Durst to fulfill his role as superintendent without restrictions.

Read in Idaho Education News

West Bonner board finds common ground with community concerns

Author | August 10, 2023 

The district appointed Courtney McKnight as special education director. Since 2021, she served as the special education administrator for Texas Tech University, according to the district. Her employment is described as “hybrid remote.”

It’s unclear where she will live while employed by West Bonner. EdNews was unable to reach anyone at the district by phone or email Thursday.

“We tried to hire somebody local here. We waited for a month and we didn’t have any applicants at all. And given the legal responsibility that we have to be able to have somebody who’s highly qualified in that role, we then expanded it to become a hybrid-remote position,” Durst explained to the board.

McKnight will be on campus at least once per quarter for a week, and if there is an emergency, she will quickly travel to Priest River, Durst told trustees.

Read in Idaho Education News

West Bonner superintendent’s plan to relocate students met with opposition

Author | August 9, 2023 

West Bonner superintendent Branden Durst’s plan to relocate 170 seventh and eighth graders to the high school was met by passionate calls to “pump the brakes, just slow down and don’t put it on the school board’s agenda.” “Represent us as a community and take it off the school board agenda,” someone pleaded. The school board has scheduled a special meeting Wednesday, Aug. 9, at 6 p.m., and Durst’s plan is listed on that agenda. The board will meet again on Wednesday, Aug. 16, but an agenda hasn’t been posted.

Read in Idaho Education News

State Board of Education rejects West Bonner’s request for corrective action

Author | August 3, 2023 

West Bonner superintendent Branden Durst’s belief that a State Board of Education error prevents him from applying for an emergency provisional certificate is inaccurate.

Through a public records request, EdNews obtained written correspondence between West Bonner and the State Board. According to a letter from executive director Matt Freeman to West Bonner School Board chairman Keith Rutledge, the district’s interpretation of Idaho code is wrong.

“You signed the attestation in the form. Your signature appears to match that of your July 7th letter,” Freeman responded in the letter to Rutledge. “If an emergency did not exist, it is unclear why the district would have hired (Susan) Luckey to serve as superintendent at its March 17th meeting.”

The clock is ticking. Durst previously told the patrons of West Bonner that he will lead the district with a provisional certificate, a task he thought he was unable to complete because of a perceived discrepancy with Luckey’s provisional certificate.

Durst needs an emergency certificate because he did not meet all the requirements to obtain a superintendent endorsement when the district hired him, which caused an outcry in the small community of Priest River. The hiring of Durst launched an effort to recall two trustees, Rutledge and Susan Brown. They face an Aug. 29 recall election.

Read in Idaho Education News

Idaho State University expands nurse education program to North Idaho

Author | August 4, 2023 

Idaho State University is expanding its program that lets college graduates go back to school to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

The university announced in a news release on Thursday that its Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing degree program is headed to Coeur d’Alene. The program already trains students in Meridian and ISU’s main campus in Pocatello.

ISU says its program, founded in 2002, has trained 550 nursing students who graduated. 

The program lets students who already have a bachelor’s degree go on to earn a new bachelor’s degree in nursing and go on to become a registered nurse.

Classes in the Coeur d’Alene program will be held at Kootenai Health. Students can also be placed in health care facilities for clinical learning opportunities in urban and rural North Idaho.

Read in the Idaho Capital Sun 

From ‘separation of church and state’ to ‘conservatism,’ West Bonner leader fields variety of questions

Author | August 4, 2023 

Being fiscally conservative drew little to no reaction from the audience. But what did cause a visceral reaction was his statement that “we need to be the Florida of the United States.” 

The audience could be heard cackling, audibly moaning and chuckling.

“It may be in a different way than you like it, but at the end of the day, that’s why I’m here,” he said.

Another person asked for clarification about when he would apply for this emergency provisional certificate. If granted by the State Board of Education, the certificate would allow Durst to fulfill his role as superintendent without restrictions.

Read in Idaho Education News

USDA raises income requirements for free and reduced school lunch programs to keep up with inflation

By Julie Luchetta
Author | August 1, 2023 

The new U.S. Department of Agriculture income limits for free and reduced school lunches have been raised to reflect inflation.

Roughly 39% of school children in Idaho qualified to receive free or reduced-price lunches this past school year. The USDA’s income guidelines for the upcoming year have increased by about 7% to 8% to reflect inflation costs.

For example, the cut-off to receive free meals for a household of four used to be just above 36,000 dollars. This year, it’s 39,000.

Read in Boise State Public Radio

A tale of two school districts: the difference money makes in education

Author | June 31, 2023 

A student’s zip code can make a big difference in their education. 

It can determine whether bonds and levies get passed and for how much, whether teachers will be highly paid, and whether students learn in new or outdated schools.

It comes down to this: Some communities are wealthier than others, and are more willing and able to spend on education. 

Most Idaho districts supplement state and federal funds with local dollars, collected through bonds and levies. But that system — of depending on local taxpayers to foot the bill for teachers, classroom supplies, new schools, and more — creates haves and have-nots among Idaho’s traditional school districts. 

And sometimes, those districts are neighbors — a proximity that only highlights the stark differences between the two.

Read in Idaho Education News

New GOP rule forces voters to wait longer to switch affiliation to Idaho Republican Party

Author | June 28, 2023 

The first rule, Rule 2023-21, would have amended existing Idaho Republican Party rules governing party affiliation and ability to vote in Republican primary elections. Under the proposed rule that failed last weekend, anybody who was affiliated with a different political party than the Idaho Republican Party at any point within the previous 12 months must wait an additional 12 months after Dec. 30 before being able to affiliate with the Idaho Republican Party.

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

Money pours into Idaho school voucher debate. Is GOP primary the next battleground?

Author | June 15, 2023 

The American Federation for Children, Young Americans for Liberty and Citizens Alliance of Idaho altogether spent about $177,000 lobbying lawmakers this session. All three political interest groups advocate — under the banners of “school choice” or “education freedom” — for policy reform that would allow private school and home-school families to benefit from public education resources through vouchers and other mechanisms.

Read in Idaho Statesman

Lack of details spark doubt at West Bonner budget meeting

Author | July 13, 2023 

Trustee Margaret Hall’s analysis seemed to undermine Durst’s assurances. She pointed to a $280,000 deficit for those athletic and in-school programs, if expenses remain the same as 2022-23.

Durst did not directly address the $280,000 Hall referenced.

“We either pay our teachers a non-competitive amount for salary or cocurricular, so you’re making us choose between our teachers or cocurricular?” trustee Carlyn Barton asked.

“We have to be cognizant of the fact that we would likely end up in a financial emergency by March or April, if we proceed in a way that’s not financially sustainable,” Durst said.

To cover 2023-24 expenses, the district will pull from its general fund balance — a kind of savings account — to cover shortfalls. An auditor looks at each school’s financial records every year and calculates what hasn’t been spent. At the end of 2022, West Bonner held about $2.9 million in its fund balance.

“We’re spending our savings account to keep things afloat. And from a fiscal standpoint, to me that’s not ideal to have ongoing costs paid for by a one-time revenue source,” Durst said. 

Board chair Keith Rutledge said, ”I fully support his plans for getting the district back on the right track with its finances.”

Urmann concluded, “This change of tune is really frustrating. Our teachers deserve it and our kids deserve it.”

Read in Idaho Education News

Coeur d’Alene Press wins records lawsuit against NIC

Author | July 13, 2023 

The Coeur d’Alene Press has won an open records lawsuit against North Idaho College.

On Wednesday, District Judge John T. Mitchell ordered NIC to turn over several employee contracts to the newspaper, and release unredacted invoices from college legal counsel.

The Press filed the lawsuit in February, saying NIC and chief communications officer Laura Rumpler violated open records law repeatedly, by failing to fulfill records requests in their entirety, and within the timeframe spelled out in state law.

NIC argued that the contracts were exempt from public release, as “personnel records.” On Wednesday, Mitchell disagreed.

“It is quite clear to the court that the employment contracts are not exempt,” Mitchell said, according to the Press’ coverage of Wednesday’s hearing.

Read in Idaho Education News

West Bonner recall organizers say trustees have a ‘hidden agenda’

Author | July 21, 2023 

The recall election ballots are as divisive as recent West Bonner school board meetings, where patrons have hurled accusations and insults.

Keith Rutledge doesn’t respect the rights and opinions of his constituents and has a “hidden agenda,” according to the ballot language argument for recalling the board’s chairman.

Meanwhile, Rutledge suggests his conservative ideology will produce better outcomes for children and will toss out any “critical theory curriculum.”

Voters get the last word.

Read in Idaho Education News

ISDE yet to see Durst provisional certification request

Staff Writer | July 19, 2023 1:00 AM

The Idaho State Board of Education has yet to receive an application from Branden Durst or from West Bonner County School District for an emergency provisional certification to serve as the district’s superintendent.
Durst did not respond to a phone call or email seeking comment on the status of his application, including when it had been submitted.

Read in the Bonner County Daily Bee

Durst: Application requires adoption of minutes

Staff Writer | July 22, 2023 1:00 AM

Per Idaho law, superintendents must hold an administrator certificate and an endorsement as a superintendent. That certificate requires a doctorate or comparable education, four years spent working in a school, time spent as an administrative intern and completion of a post-master’s degree in an approved school superintendent program. In addition, Idaho law requires that an individual receive an institutional recommendation for a superintendent endorsement.

Durst does not have the credentials to serve as superintendent and must receive provisional certification from the Idaho Board of Education in order to act in that role.

Read in the Bonner County Daily Bee

Here’s how to get the new no-fee state ID card in Idaho

Author | July 17, 2023 4:30 AM

As part of a new law that took effect July 1, the Idaho Transportation Department is offering free state identification cards for Idaho adults who do not have a driver’s license to use for voting. 

The no-fee IDs were part of House Bill 340, a new voter registration law that Secretary of State Phil McGrane sponsored during the 2023 legislative session. 

The identification cards are available free to individuals who are 18 or older who have not had a driver’s license for at least six months and who indicate on their application that they need the ID for voting requirements, Idaho Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ellen Mattila said. 

Read in the Idaho Statesman

Lack of details spark doubt at West Bonner budget meeting

Author | July 13, 2023 

Superintendent Branden Durst and trustees talked in-depth about their summary budget posted on the district’s website — which they called temporary — but specifics were scant. Trustees unanimously approved that $9.6 million budget.

A summary budget is non-specific. The complete budget includes spending codes that show how every dollar will be allocated in the coming year. The board did not share or discuss that document Wednesday.

However, constituents pressed trustees to explain how the money will be spent.

Sandra Brower said, “I would like to know the changes … You had public comment last time during the budget hearing and there are people here that actually said that they didn’t understand what was happening with our budget, yet there’s no explanation with the changes.”

Read in Idaho Education News

Parents, students rally support for West Bonner teachers

Contributing Writer | July 18, 2023 1:00 AM

West Bonner school board chair Keith Rutledge’s suggestion that teachers don’t deserve a raise sparked a local campaign to boost morale for the 82 teachers who will return to the classroom next month. […]

Community remembers educators who provide positive influence

Listed below are examples of what the community thinks about the teachers of Priest River Elementary, Priest Lake Elementary, Idaho Hill Elementary, Priest River Junior High School and Priest River Lamanna High School.

 Teachers are what MAKE school. To say the teachers aren’t worth the money they deserve is the same as saying children don’t deserve a quality education. The children of this community deserve good teachers, which means the teachers must be paid a living wage so they can stay!

“I have friends that teach in other Inland Northwest schools and cannot believe the wage discrepancy. Not only are our teachers some of the lowest paid in the INW we also have some of the least home availability and highest rental cost. They experience the recent inflation threefold. We need to support our teachers, without them we have no future. They partner with parents to create ethical, smart, productive adults some of whom will one day lead our community, our state or maybe even represent our country.

Our teachers are like nothing I’ve ever seen. Their love and compassion for ALL of these kids and OUR community are unmatched. The strength and dedication to the schools deserve praise. They deserve more than the measly 3% raise to live on. They don’t deserve to be treated this way. Not giving your teachers the financial support that they deserve is ludicrous. It disgusts me that the chairman of the board can make comments about how our teachers are not worth the percentage they are being offered when he has never seen the impact they have on children because he doesn’t know anyone in the community, BY HIS OWN ADMISSION.

Read in the Bonner County Daily Bee

The North Idaho College debacle demonstrates the dangers of extremism

Author | May 30, 2023 

Regan chairs the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), which deplores public education. IFF’s president has said: “I don’t think government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today.” This attitude would explain why Regan’s trustees have driven the college to the brink of disaster. Unless things take a dramatic turn very soon, NIC will lose its accreditation and just be a fond memory of the thousands who were educated in its hallowed halls.

Read in Idaho Education News 

Extremist branch of the Idaho GOP tightens its grip on power

Special to the Bee | July 20, 2023 

“The extremist branch of Idaho’s Republican Party has been engaged in a purge of all those who are considered suspect by the (Dorothy) Moon Crowd and their dogmatic predecessors ever since the GOP closed its primary in 2012. As white nationalist Vincent James Foxx declared last year, a “real right-wing takeover is happening in Idaho and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.” Or, is there actually something Idahoans can do to stop the extremist takeover?

Actually, there is a sure-fire way for Idahoans to take their state back from the extremists who have degraded and embarrassed the Gem State on the national stage, turned us against one another and devoted their attention to gaining votes by creating outrage and fear over non-existent problems while ignoring the actual problems confronting our people.

The solution to almost all of these problems is the Open Primaries Initiative, which will be circulating around the state for signature as soon as the Idaho Supreme Court decides upon proper titles for the measure. Stay tuned to the information about how elections will be conducted under the initiative and how it will empower the people of Idaho to better govern themselves.” 

Read in the Bonner County Daily Bee

NIC has 90 weeks to address accreditation concerns

Author | July 11, 2023 

North Idaho College will remain accredited — for up to one more year.

In what the college is calling a “neutral decision,” a regional panel is keeping the embattled Coeur d’Alene-based community college’s accreditation intact.

But NIC will continue to operate under the shadow of a “show-cause” designation. In other words, college officials still have to convince the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities that NIC should be accredited for the long haul.

In the short term, for as long as 12 months, the status quo will remain intact at the 90-year-old college. NIC’s 4,000 students will still be able to transfer their credits to other schools. Students will still be able to receive financial aid, such as Idaho’s Opportunity Scholarship. The reprieve could also give NIC a chance to address some of the other problems stemming from the accreditation battle — including a precipitous drop in enrollment that has unfolded over several years.

Read in the Idaho Reports

Lawsuit filed against AG Labrador over ballot initiative

Author | July 10, 2023 

The Idahoans for Open Primaries Coalition and Reclaim Idaho filed a lawsuit Monday against Attorney General Raúl Labrador, asking the Idaho Supreme Court to repeal and replace his assigned ballot titles to its proposed initiative. 

Under Idaho law, the attorney general is required to assign ballot titles to citizens’ initiatives. Idahoans for Open Primaries argues Labrador’s titles for their initiative are not in conformity with the law. 

Read in the Idaho Reports

Idaho opts out of nearly $15 million that would feed children this summer. Why?

Author | July 12, 2023 

Idaho has decided not to participate in a federal program that would have provided $14.8 million to feed low-income students during the summer, a decision that impacts about 123,000 children in need, according to the Food Research and Action Center.

Read in the Idaho Statesman

Why Conservatives Shouldn’t Fear Ranked Choice Voting

Commentary | April 27, 2023 

If you believe some critics, ranked choice voting (RCV) is a partisan Democratic scheme cooked up to “rig” American elections and handicap conservative and Republican candidates. These claims are bunk. RCV is a modest procedural reform aimed at somewhat improving the match between voter preferences and electoral outcomes, with implications that are neutral as between left and right. It’s part of a category of electoral reforms that have drawn interest for centuries from scholars, very much including free‐​market economists.

RCV improves elections by letting voters communicate much richer data about their preferences. It probably also tends to help the sorts of candidates who appeal to many kinds of voters, not just a narrow, super‐​committed base.

Read at the Cato Institute

West Bonner trustees discuss November levy proposal


Author | July 7, 2023 

“Will students hear the sounds of dribbling basketballs or enthusiastic cheerleaders or the spike of volleyballs next school year?

West Bonner School Board trustees continue searching for solutions in the wake of their failed May election, when voters rejected the district’s two-year $9.4 million supplemental levy proposal.”

Read in Idaho Education News

IFF's plan to destroy public education

Special To The Bee | July 4, 2023 1:00 AM

The Idaho Freedom Foundation has already shown us how to drive a storied community college to the brink of ruin. IFF board chair Brent Regan and his wrecking crew have just about finished off North Idaho College. Now IFF is demonstrating its plan to discredit and dismantle Idaho’s public schools, starting with West Bonner County School District, centered in Priest River.

Read in Bonner County Daily Bee

West Bonner trustee recall moves forward


Author | July 3, 2023, 1:06 AM 

“A campaign to recall a pair of West Bonner County School District board trustees will move forward.

Enough valid signatures were collected by campaign organizers to get a recall on a ballot Aug. 29.

“I think we’re going to have a huge turnout from both sides,” Bonner County Clerk Michael Rosedale said.”

Read in the Coeur d’Alene Press

Districts lean on short-term levies to pay for long-term investments — people


Author | June 29, 2023

If a district wants to hire additional teachers to reduce class sizes, that is supplemental spending and a decision that should be left to local voters, she said. But Perry is concerned about other deficiencies in the education budgets: transportation funding that isn’t keeping pace with local needs, extracurricular programs that are often funded only through local levies, and other gaps.

Read in Idaho Education News

UPDATED: Durst superintendent contract approved after weeks of controversy

Author | June 28, 2023 

Branden Durst’s superintendent contract was approved on a 3-2 vote Wednesday night, finalizing the controversial hire after a series of divisive West Bonner school board meetings. 

The board also declared a state of emergency on a 3-2 vote — a step needed in order for Durst to seek an emergency provisional certificate from the State Board of Education. 

Read in Idaho Education News 

US to spend $42 billion to make internet access universal by 2030

Author | June 26, 2023 3:33 PM PST

The funding under the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program was authorized by the $1 trillion 2021 infrastructure law Biden championed. The spending will be based on a newly released Federal Communications Commission coverage map that details gaps in access.

Read in Reuters

Idaho nonprofit brings affordable housing to Caldwell — with more projects in the pipeline

Author | June 23, 2023 

The Housing Company, an Idaho nonprofit whose goal is to preserve affordable housing developments, partnered with the Idaho Housing and Finance to address the housing needs of Canyon County.

The 76-unit apartment complex consists of one-, two- and three-bedroom units for people and families who earn up to 60% of area median income.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Caldwell median household income is $59,795. A person making 60% of that, or $39,877, would qualify for the housing.

Read in the Idaho Press

Idaho Supreme Court rules in favor of city, Festival

June 22, 2023 10:20 AM

“The Idaho Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court decision on a lawsuit challenging a ban on firearms during the Festival at Sandpoint’s summer music series.

The court’s ruling, which was issued Thursday morning, affirmed a First District Court ruling that found the Festival at Sandpoint has the right to set rules for those entering Memorial Field during the two weeks it leases the field for the summer music series. Among those requirements is a ban on attendees possessing weapons inside the venue.”

Read in the Coeur d’Alene Press

Idaho open-primary supporters press on with ballot initiative, despite AG’s critique

Author | June 20, 2023 4:30 AM

Under state law, the attorney general shall “to the best of his ability, give a true and impartial statement of the purpose of the measure and in such language that the ballot title shall not be intentionally an argument or likely to create prejudice either for or against the measure.”

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

Levies, races placed on May ballot

Staff Writer | April 8, 2023 1:00 AM

Voters are being asked to decide the fate of a pair of levies — in next month’s consolidated election. Also on the ballot are seats for the boards of directors for the East Bonner County Library District and Pend Oreille Hospital District.

Read in Daily Bee

Fox News has been blown to smithereens


“The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” Fox’s motion for summary judgment was rejected, meaning the suit will go to trial.

Read in Washington Post

Citing staffing issues and political climate, North Idaho hospital will no longer deliver babies


Idaho’s Bonner General Health, the only hospital in Sandpoint, announced Friday afternoon that it will no longer provide obstetrical services to the city of more than 9,000 people, meaning patients will have to drive 46 miles for labor and delivery care moving forward.

The hospital’s board of directors and senior leadership called the decision an emotional and difficult one in the press release, and cited a loss of pediatricians, changing demographics and Idaho’s legal and political climate around health care as the reasons for the decision.

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

The MAGA-fication of North Idaho College

By Charles Homans March 6, 2023

The troubles culminated last month in a letter from the regional higher education commission, which warned that the 90-year-old college could be stripped of its accreditation if changes were not made in a matter of weeks — an effective threat of closure –  potential catastrophe for Coeur d’Alene, a town of 56,000 in the Idaho Panhandle. The college is the sixth-largest employer in Kootenai County and a source of skilled labor for much of the local economy.

Read in the New York Times

Records show powerful, wealthy funders outside Idaho back school choice campaign

BY:  – FEBRUARY 3, 2023

The national special interests groups who have poured millions of dollars into efforts to make education savings account programs a reality in states like ArizonaUtahWyomingWisconsin and New Hampshire are the same donors who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars during Idaho’s midterm election to ensure school choice-friendly legislators occupied as many seats as possible in the Idaho Legislature, records show.

  • Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay received $21,310
  • On his campaign website, Dixon wrote it is necessary to make all forms of education available in Idaho, including public, private, charter, online and homeschool, and that money should follow the child wherever they are receiving their education. 

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

The Wisconsin public schools story: A cautionary tale for Idaho

By Rd Gramer

The bottom line is local property taxpayers in Wisconsin are paying the price to provide subsidies for families who send their kids to private and religious schools in Milwaukee, Madison and Racine.

 If the advocates of school privatization get their way, Idaho taxpayers will end up supporting three new school systems – private, religious, and home schools. 

Reading and math scores in private and religious schools were no better than scores in Milwaukee public schools, he wrote.

At first there were only 499 students going to private and religious schools at taxpayers’ expense with a cost of $3.2 million. By 2021 there were 11,740 students receiving taxpayer-supported subsidies to attend private and religious schools at a cost to the state of $99.2 million. Meanwhile, state support for the public-school districts impacted by the program was cut by $139.5 million this fiscal year, according to the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau. 

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

Opinion: Voted no once, will vote no again

Read about the proposed rule change that would suppress the vote in the Republican primary.


“If passed, it will control both who runs as a Republican candidate and who votes as a Republican. When did democracy say that the party leadership chooses the candidate? When in our nation’s history has one’s previous political affiliations determined our future affiliations? What happened to “one person, one vote” representation? 

One of our best and well-known freedoms is that anyone, you, me or our neighbor can choose to run for an elected office via a simple registration process. Paying a fee or collecting petition signatures will place your name on the ballot. Winning is not and never has been guaranteed; but the right to run and the right to register for whichever party we choose should be a right that is not infringed upon by any level of upper government.”

Read in Idaho State Journal


Poll: Many Idaho voters unfamiliar with 'school choice" policy debate

“School choice is a debate over funding for public education. It often includes discussion of programs such as vouchers or education savings accounts that would allow families to use the tax dollars that support students in public schools to instead pay for other educational pursuits, such as private school or homeschooling.”

“School choice is my priority, it’s what I ran on,” Toews said. 

Read in Idaho Capitol Sun

Read BSU 2022 Public Policy Survey

Can Lent rein in disastrous Senate Ed Committee?

By BRYAN CLARK Idaho Statesman

“The reasons most proponents of vouchers want to pursue them have nothing to do with improving student outcomes.

They’re simply opposed to free and equal education provided by a system of public schools. In the short term, vouchers offer a means to undermine it: allowing high-achieving students easy ways out, taking funding with them. Public schools are then left with a greater proportion of higher-cost, harder-to-educate students and less money to do it with.

In the long term, they prefer a world of fully privatized education, a world in which a student’s school is as good as their parents’ bank accounts. This, they say, is freedom.”

Read in Idaho Statesman

Idaho Legislature: Moyle defeats Monks for House speaker; other leadership positions elected

“In the race for majority leader, Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, who previously was majority caucus chair, defeated Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens.

The assistant majority leader post drew two hopefuls: Reps. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay; and Jon Weber, R-Rexburg. Dixon, a 5th-term representative who has chaired both the House Business Committee and the House Ethics Committee, won the post.”

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

Idaho legislators to select caucus leadership teams and committee chairs

BY:  – NOVEMBER 28, 2022 

“Although the 2023 legislative session does not gavel in until Jan 9, the leadership and committee assignments will be sorted out this week. 

Legislators will meet in private Wednesday night to elect a slate of caucus leadership. Caucuses are grouped together by legislative chamber and political party. That means Republicans in the Idaho House will elect the speaker of the House and majority leadership positions, while Democrats in the House will elect their minority leadership team. Similarly, Republicans in the Senate will elect the Senate president pro tem and majority leadership officers, while Democrats in the Senate will elect minority party officers. “

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

State of Idaho certifies general election results

BY:  – NOVEMBER 23, 2022 

“The additional data released with the canvass showed that voter turnout across the state came to 56.8%.

The other seven counties audited include Bonner, Bonneville, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Minidoka, Oneida and Shoshone. There were no unaccounted ballots in Bonner, Bonneville, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Minidoka or Shoshone counties.”

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

Secretary of State’s office working to find source of ‘Don’t Vote’ signs

BY:  – NOVEMBER 1, 2022 4:30 AM

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office is working to determine the source of signs posted around the Treasure Valley with a message that says, “Don’t Vote” and a QR code that redirects to the campaign website for Ammon Bundy, who is running as an independent candidate for governor.

The signs do not indicate who paid for them to be printed and placed, which Houck said would be a campaign finance violation if the campaign knew about them. Idaho law requires campaigns to indicate on all political advertising who is responsible for the advertising.

“That’s a violation, clearly,” Houck said. 

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

Alaska has shown how to achieve sensible election reform

September 6, 2022 By Jim Jones
In Legislative District 1 this year, Scott Herndon, a candidate further right than Attila the Hun, beat Sen. Jim Woodward in the primary election with a scorched earth campaign.

Woodward has been one of our very best GOP legislators. Unless Herndon loses to a write-in candidate in November, he will be pushing his abortion-is-murder- from-fertilization crusade in the next legislative session.” 

Read in Bonner Daily Bee

Judge rules that Bonneville County GOP cannot endorse Republicans in Idaho’s primary

“It seems clear enough — quite clear” that county central committees are limited to endorsing only county-level political candidates, “with respect to endorsement of Republican candidates in Republican primary settings,” Scott said at the end of a nearly two-hour virtual court hearing.”  The Bonner County Republican Central Committee endorses candidates during a primary similar to what authoritarian governments do. The voters are supposed to pick the candidates, NOT the party.  

Read in Idaho Capital Sun

A Fracture in Idaho’s G.O.P. as the Far Right Seeks Control

“Ahead of a primary vote, traditional Republicans are raising alarm about the future of the party, warning about the growing strength of militia members, racists and the John Birch Society.  Spencer Hutchings, a candidate for the State House, was the one who advocated making machine guns generally available.”

Read in New York Times 

Kids Matter Index - 2022 Senator Woodward - 100%

Check to see how your representatives scored on the Kids Matter Index.  This index is compiled after the session is over.  The Idaho Freedom Foundation sends text messages during voting to let representatives know how each vote will impact their scores. This is NOT how scoring should be done. Senator Jim Woodward received a 100% while Rep Heather Scott received a 38%. 

Kids Matter Index
Idaho Capital Sun

New Republican party forms in North Idaho

“The founders of the new party say the current party is mismanaged, doesn’t represent many republicans in the county and say the recent dilemma with North Idaho College was the final straw.”  The fracturing of the Idaho Republican party is real.  Which side do you land on?

Read on KXLY

Making the grade

April 10, 2022
Idaho Business for Education rates our representatives on how well they support education.  It’s no surprise that Senator Jim Woodward received a 100%. 

Read More in the Daily Bee

Does your candidate support selling public lands?

April 6, 2022
Read Senator’s Jim Woodwards summary of this year’s legislative session.

Go here to Read More

Big-money Nevada consultants play part in Herndon Senate campaign

March 23, 2022 by Zach Hagadon
“Most striking is McShane LLC’s ties to groups — including the Proud Boys.”

Read in The Sandpoint Reader

Idaho can use your help

March 12, 2022 by Douglas Siddoway
“Whatever the reason, what we got and are now grappling with, from one end of the state to the other, is an Idaho Freedom Foundation-orchestrated mindset that is as self-centered as it is dark.”

Read in the Spokesman Review

Accreditation team finds NIC is strong in every way but one – its board

March 9, 2022  by Shawn Vestal
“Rarely has any institution suffered the destructive impact of a single individual to the degree that NIC has suffered from the bullying lawlessness of Todd Banducci and his fellow anti-education cutthroats on the NIC board.”

Read in the Spokesman Review

NIVS in the news: Nonprofit group aims to help voters get informed

March 10, 2022  by Zach Hagadone
“To accomplish that, Dawson added, “It just gets back to getting voters to vote. Democracy is not permanent. We can lose it overnight.””

Read in the Sandpoint Reader

A Parent’s Letter to Gov. Little and the Legislature

March 9, 2022  by Barbara Schreiber
“Generally, it is my job as a parent to help guide my boys through the minefield of adolescence and to help them make sense of the world around them. The last thing I’m worried about is what they may be exposed to in school, by a book, or from an educator. The nightly news can be much more dehumanizing.”

Read in the Idaho Education News

We Should Heed George Washington's Warnings Against Partisanship

February 22, 2022, By Jim Jones

“The American people are faced with a stark choice–continue down the road where political extremism rules our lives, or choose to put the good of the country and state above poisonous partisanship.”

Read story in IDED News

NIVS Aims To Help Voters Sort through Candidates, Issues

February 22, 2022, The Daily Bee

Read about how North Idaho Voter Services got its start and how they plan to help voters.

Read story in the Daily Bee

Uncivil Debate is Costing Idaho Communities Good Public Servants

February 13, 2022, By the Editorial Board of the Idaho Statesman

“Just because a public body makes a decision you don’t like, that doesn’t give you license to yell, throw a temper tantrum, bang down doors, harass and threaten.”

Read story by Idaho Statesman