January 31, 2022 6:00am

January Power Poll results: Huge support for statewide full-day kindergarten

Respondents are split on committee hearing procedures and rental application fee caps, but most agree the state should fund full-day kindergarten in every district.

By Melissa Davlin
Boise, ID Correspondent
 
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Three weeks into the legislative session, lawmakers have already introduced a major tax cut bill, as the joint budget committee hears presentations from state agencies on their fiscal needs. Along with

As leadership aims to adjourn before the end of March, there's a whirlwind of activity behind the scenes -- though some proposals will die quiet deaths without committee hearings, and others will generate plenty of talk but may or may not go anywhere.

This month, we asked Power Poll participants whether every legislative proposal should get a hearing, or if it should be up to committee chairs. We also asked about full day kindergarten and caps on rental application fees.

Power Poll is a nonpartisan survey organization that partners with newsrooms and journalists across the country to gauge opinions on issues affecting their communities. The poll is not a scientific surgey; Rather, it measures opinions from Treasure Valley community leaders.


Lawmakers from both parties have expressed frustration that some proposals that are popular with their constituents likely won't get hearings, much less advance to the floor for a vote. Those pitches include Add The Words, which would add protections for sexual orientation and gender identity into Idaho's Human Rights Act, and a repeal of the sales tax on groceries. Both of these ideas have floated around the statehouse for years, and most sessions, neither gets a hearing.

That's often because committee chairs act as gatekeepers for proposed pieces of legislation, sometimes because they prefer other similar proposals, and other times because they don't like the drafts at all.

We asked Power Poll participants if all bills should get hearings. Of those who responded, 27 percent said every bill should get a hearing, while 63 percent said committee chairs should use their discretion.

Another ten percent didn't know.

"I think leaving it up to the committee chair makes it personality driven, but on the other hand, not every bill is likely deserving of a hearing," wrote Star City Council member Michael Keyes. "I imagine there are some worthy bills that are denied hearings and I'm wondering, could there be another, more objective, option to decide?"

"Some bills don't get hearings simply because the chairs don't get what they want," wrote Kuna Mayor Joe Stear. "They should change the system to have a review panel from the committee to make that decision, but until there is a chance the chair has to decide.


Full-day kindergarten has bipartisan support this year, and seemingly the budget to make it happen. But not everyone has the same vision on what that would look like. Some lawmakers are proposing statewide full-day kindergarten in every district, while Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is asking for funding for optional full-day kindergarten for high-risk students.

Right now, local districts have the option to provide full-day kindergarten, though many don't have the funding to do so. Gov. Brad Little's budget proposal includes early literacy funding that would go to districts to spend as they choose, including full-day kindergarten programs.

In the meantime, Boise School District and Idaho Falls School District 91 both recently announced they would start providing full-day kindergarten for all students.

We asked Power Poll participants which proposal they prefer. Seventy one percent said the state should provide full-day kindergarten for all students.

"Parents should have the option of choosing no Kindergarten, half-day Kindergarten or full-day Kindergarten for their child, but the state should fully fund Kindergarten so that parents are not charged any fees and the school district costs are fully funded by the state," wrote Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise.

Another 24 percent said local districts should make the decision.

"Until the state funds education as it is supposed to, full day kindergarten has to be left to the discretion of local districts and their ability to properly fund," Stears said.

Just two percent said they agree with the plan to make optional full-day kindergarten available to high-risk students. Another two percent said they didn't know.


The House Business Committee introduced a bill that would ban caps on application fees for rentals, like the one Boise adopted in 2019 that sets the maximum application fee at $30.

We asked Power Poll participants if they agree with the bill. Fifty seven percent said local jurisdictions should be able to put a cap on fees, while 22 percent said the landlord or property owner should be able to decide. Another 20 percent said they didn't know.

"I believe that local jurisdictions should be able to cap fees to protect folks from greedy landlords," Stear wrote. "I am not sure that $30 is the appropriate cap but when rentals are low and demand is high people could be forced to apply multiple times and deplete their funds to even be able to afford rent and deposits needed."

"Regarding rental application fee caps, I don't think the state should ban them as there have been legitimate examples of abusive fees in the past," Keyes said.

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