[Vision2020] Otter looks to roll back Kempthorne's Generation of the Child Efforts

Donovan Arnold donovanjarnold2005 at yahoo.com
Wed May 16 16:34:00 PDT 2007

  If you were governor, and your federal aid was cut by 22%, what programs would you cut?

Debbie Gray <graylex at yahoo.com> wrote:
  Well, isn't this great news from our fearless


Otter looks to roll back Kempthorne's Generation of
the Child efforts
Ex-first lady says ‘children and families are losing'
with program, council cuts
The Generation of the Child may be coming to an end.

Gov. Butch Otter plans to eliminate $1.5 million in
spending for early childhood education programs and
dissolve citizen councils on families, children,
suicide prevention and teen pregnancy — most
established by former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

His plan could eliminate all state-funneled money for
the Parents as Teachers program, which teaches
parents, in personal visits and group discussions, how
best to keep young children healthy and prepare them
for school.

A document from Otter's office shows the
administration also may be considering cutting $1.5
million in funding for Head Start, a preschool system
for low-income families. Officials were unable to
confirm the status of those plans Monday night.

A drop in federal funding and Otter's overriding goal
to streamline state government are forcing the
decisions, administration officials say. The changes
would roll back many of the initiatives started in
Kempthorne's Generation of the Child.

"None of this makes any sense to me," said former
first lady Patricia Kempthorne, who championed many of
these councils and programs and still works on family
issues with her own foundation. "It feels like we're
moving backwards."

She said she fears the changes could bring Idaho back
to square one for early childhood programs.

"I didn't expect it all to stay the same," she said.
"But I think there was a gift here to whatever
administration came in."

Federal welfare spending is dropping by as much as 22
percent over the next three years, forcing Health and
Welfare to make up for more than $9 million in lost
revenues from the Temporary Assistance for Needy
Families program. TANF funds could drop to $33.1
million by fiscal year 2010.

"We asked, ‘How are we going to balance the TANF
budget?" Health and Welfare Deputy Director Dick
Schultz said. "What's the way we can balance the
budget without affecting services for individuals?"

Plus, Otter plans to eliminate the Governor's
Coordinating Council for Families and Children, the
Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and the
Suicide Prevention Council.

All of these councils and programs were consolidated
under the Executive Office for Families and Children,
which Kempthorne created in 2006, just before he left
to become secretary of Interior.

Under Otter's plan, that office would be dissolved
June 15.

Legislators, even some on the budget committee, are
just beginning to hear about the proposed changes,
which would make cuts in the fiscal year 2008 budgets
lawmakers passed this winter.

"The Legislature prioritizes the spending of money —
the governor doesn't," Boise Democratic Sen. Elliot
Werk said. "I guess I'd have some serious questions
about this."

‘A perfect storm'

Kempthorne announced his Generation of the Child in
his first State of the State speech in 1999.

The Legislature didn't embrace all of it, though, so
Kempthorne created several of these councils through
executive orders. With the help of some legislators,
he used federal money to pay for programs many
lawmakers didn't want to fund themselves.

"I think (Kempthorne) saw TANF as an opportunity to
fund a number of things and used it as such," Schultz

But when Otter took over, circumstances started to

The new governor wanted to streamline government.
Federal money was dwindling. Legislative auditors had
questioned some of the ways the state was spending the
federal money. And Health and Welfare leaders wanted
to cut back some of the many boards, commissions and
councils that interacted with the agency.

"It was really a perfect storm," Schultz said.

Otter wants to keep valuable state services but
eliminate boards and councils that may not contribute
to measurable results, spokesman Mark Warbis said.

"You start losing focus," he said. "It's public
services by committee."

Many of the programs and efforts will be merged into
Health and Welfare divisions and other state boards.

The citizens who headed the Council for Families and
Children agreed that services are more important than
the council itself.

"If the services are still in place, the citizens of
Idaho will continue to be served," said Boise
businessman Skip Oppenheimer. He co-chaired the
council with former Boise councilwoman and Mayor
Carolyn Terteling-Payne, who echoed Oppenheimer's

But Patricia Kempthorne said part of the point of
these councils was to get citizens involved.

"To me, less government means more citizen
involvement," she said. "What's happening is they're
moving all that into the bureaucracy."

"The sadder part," she added, "is that I don't know
who's being helped, and I think the children and
families are losing."

Some conservatives have embraced the program

Patricia Kempthorne isn't the only Republican who
likes Parents as Teachers.

Though conservatives in the Legislature voted against
the idea 51-18 after an emotional debate in 1999, the
idea since has gained some support.

Conservative Republicans don't want to create state
preschool programs — Canyon County GOP leaders plan to
push a state party resolution to support ways to
empower parents to do the job themselves.

Just last week, the Lewiston Morning News reported
that Republican schools Superintendent Tom Luna told
Lewiston business leaders that Parents as Teachers
could do just that — help parents prepare their
children for schools so the state wouldn't have to
expand its own bureaucracy.

Luna told the Statesman Monday that the "Parents As
Teachers program has been a great resource statewide
for parents."

"The program allows kindergarten-readiness learning to
take place in the home, which is most beneficial to
children at a young age," he said. "I am hopeful the
PAT program, or other programs similar to it, will
continue to grow in Idaho by running with a leaner
budget or through grants or other alternate funding

Gregory Hahn: 377-6425

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