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Idaho state lawmaker apologizes for 'sexist' remarks about mothers

Idaho state lawmaker apologizes for 'sexist' remarks about mothers
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A state GOP lawmaker in Idaho apologized this week for making "misguided" and "sexist" remarks about mothers while coming out against a federal grant going to fund child care and early learning programs.

State Rep. Charlie Shepherd (R) said he opposed the funds because, he argued, it jeopardized "the family unit" and encouraged mothers to "come out of the home."

“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. … We are really hurting the family unit in the process,” Shepherd said in the Idaho House on Tuesday, the Idaho Press reported.

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The bill, which was struck down in a 36-34 vote, would have allowed child care and early education programs to be funded by a federal grant, according to the Idaho State Journal.

Shepherd issued an apology on the House floor on Wednesday, saying he has the “utmost respect” for single working moms.

“My intent was to compliment mothers in every way possible. I stand before you now to admit that I failed miserably. After hearing my remarks played back, I recognize how my remarks sounded derogatory, offensive and even sexist towards the mothers of this state. … Single working mothers are the strongest and most courageous people that I know,” Shepherd said.

“I have learned the hard way that misguided statements do not help solve anything,” he added. “I sincerely apologize to any and all that I have offended, and I will work hard to right any wrongs that I have done.” 

Gov. Brad Little (R) supported the bill and said he will “try again” to address the concerns of those opposed to the bill. He hopes to bring the bill back to a vote but isn’t clear when that will happen.

“We’ll continue to work at it, and we’ll continue to work at the Legislature, trying to address their concern,” Little said. “There’s always a concern when it’s a federal grant, with strings, some designated, some not designated. 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.”

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Concerns about the legislation included fears that the bill would push a “social justice curriculum” onto kids, the Idaho State Journal reported.

“We don’t dictate curriculum,” said Beth Oppenheimer, executive director of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children.

“The whole purpose of it is to ensure that families, child care providers, anyone who’s working and caring for children birth through age 5 has information they need to best prepare their child for school,” Oppenheimer said.