Another heart-breaking statistic from the Otter-Luna economy: Idaho student homelessness is growing faster than all but 7 other states.
By 2012, 6,076 of Idaho’s children were in desperate need. That number is a 27 percent increase, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Idaho may not be the largest state in the union, but it’s one of the top states when it comes to growth in homeless students. Between the 2010–11 and 2011–12 school years Idaho saw a 27 percent increase in homeless students, a total of 6,076 kids.
The reasons for these numbers in Idaho are myriad. Parents often lose jobs, which are already scarce, through layoffs or illness. Eviction follows, and families find themselves homeless on the streets or living in shelters.
Looked at back to 2009, and the homeless student population increase is 40 percent. Have no worries! Supt. of Public Schools Luna is well aware of the issue, according to a BSU public radio report:
Idaho Department of Education spokesperson Melissa McGrath says the agency knew there’d be a sizable increase in student homelessness during that time, thanks in large part to the recession.
“There are two things at play,” McGrath says. “The economy – that’s pretty obvious, and another thing is that in Idaho, compared to other states, we’ve been better at collecting this data.”
We can either stop doing such a good job of counting kids in dire circumstances or we can pursue policies that help families and their children prosper. We can do better. These children are suffering because of the failed economic policies stemming from 20 years of GOP control of our state. All we need to do is change course. Retool. Rebuild. Rethink who should be leading Idaho.
Idaho is number one in the percentage of minimum wage jobs. We are last for how much we invest in our children’s education.
Otter did that. Luna did that.
And, the GOP-controlled Legislature helped them. Recall what GOP House Speaker Scott Bedke told the AP about the struggling community of Salmon’s inability to pass a bond to fix an earthquake-damaged school:
“We’re there to take care of safety issues, and not just there to build everybody new schools because they can’t get a bond passed. That may seem a little harsh, but that’s where we’re at.”
Harsh? No. That’s cruel. That’s also bad policy. And, it’s unconstitutional. Are kids in rural schools getting as good an education as kids in schools from richer districts? What respectable business wants to re-locate to a community that can’t fix the school when an earthquake damages it? What business comes to a state where the top GOP leaders–Bedke, Luna, Otter–choose to do nothing except shrug?
Bedke said that about a community that is suffering from job cuts at the mines. He said that about a building that is potentially unsafe for children. He represents how the GOP must defend its reckless cuts to our schools and its blindfold approach to economic policy–Shrug.
Idaho can do better. Idaho must do better.
We have the chance to do better: AJ Balukoff for governor.