GOP Rejects Childcare Money in Idaho for Very Modern Reason: Moms Should Stay Home

The state could have had $6 million in free federal money to support childcare and early childhood education, but no.
March 4, 2021, 6:18pm
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Children with mother who is working at home at the computer. (Photo by Ulrich Baumgarten via Getty Images)

Idaho Republicans killed a bill to get $6 million in free federal money for childcare and literacy because, apparently, moms need to stay home and not let the government turn their kids into little social justice activists.

That was the message sent earlier this week when the heavily-GOP-skewing state House narrowly rejected a federal grant to support a whole host of early childcare initiatives, including helping parents with childcare. 

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Republican Rep. Charlie Shepherd argued that helping moms who have to work would be, in fact, a bad thing, according to the Spokesman Review.

“I don’t think anybody does a better job than mothers in the home, and any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child, I don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going,” Shepherd said during the debate Tuesday. 

“We are really hurting the family unit in the process,” he added. 

To be fair, Shepherd did apologize Wednesday, saying he intended “to compliment mothers in every way possible” but that he “failed miserably.” But the bill ultimately failed, meaning the Legislature rejected millions in free money that would have helped childhood literacy as well.

The Idaho Legislature is one of the most staunchly Republican in the country, with just 12 Democrats among the House’s 70 members. But initially, the grant had broad support from top Idaho Republicans and business groups, including Gov. Brad Little, U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, and the state Chamber of Commerce, according to the Spokesman Review and Idaho Education News

“A study was conducted, and essentially they said that 50 percent of Idaho is in an early childhood education desert,” Republican Rep. Paul Amador, who sponsored the bill, told fellow legislators. “So people just don’t have access to child care in all parts of the state.”

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But ultimately, the bill failed by one vote. Initially it was a tie, but Democratic Rep. John McCrostie switched his vote to opposing it. McCrostie later said he switched for procedural reasons, so the bill could be brought up again later. 

Other Republicans who voted down the bill suggested that the grant, which was awarded by the Trump administration, was a ploy to turn Idaho kids into little activists.

Critics pointed to the fact that the grant would see the Idaho State Board of Education partner with a nonprofit called the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children. “The goal in the long run is to be able to take our children from birth and to be able to start indoctrinating them and teaching them to be activists,” Republican Rep. Tammy Nichols said. 

Another GOP legislator, Priscilla Giddings, said she looked through a catalog for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, with whom the Idaho nonprofit is affiliated, and pointed to a line saying white and male privilege are real. “I do not believe that you are privileged based on your gender or your race,” Giddings said.

“I think we need to talk about social justice ideology—that’s what you’re voting for, you’re voting for social justice ideology to be given, through grant money, to our little ones,” Giddings said. 

On Wednesday, Little said he was “disappointed” by the outcome but that the fight wasn’t over. “We’ll try again,” he told reporters in a virtual press conference

“There’s always a concern when it’s a federal grant, with strings, some designated, some not designated,” he said. “But it is in everybody’s best interest, particularly these kids that have challenges, and families that have tougher challenges. We have both a constitutional and a moral obligation to try to help these kids.”