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Idaho business leaders ramp up push for education reforms

Concerned about where Idaho’s education system is headed, dozens of Idaho CEOs have banded together to push for reforms and improvements, from boosting reading instruction in early grades to finding ways to get more Idaho kids to continue their education after high school. “Education is the engine that pulls the economy,” says Rod Gramer, the new president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education. “Without a good education, my life would have been totally different.”

Gramer is a longtime Idaho journalist who headed news operations at TV stations around the country before returning to his home state this year to take the reins of the IBE. Raised by a mom who worked as a cashier for 31 years after his dad died in a car accident shortly before he was born, Gramer, 60, was the first in his immediate family to graduate from college.

Business leaders first formed Idaho Business for Education in 2005, but they’ve stepped it up this year, hiring on full-time staff – Gramer came on in April – and mobilizing around three projects: Improving early reading among Idaho kids; supporting the controversial Common Core standards for math and English in Idaho schools; and implementing the 20 recommendations of Gov. Butch Otter’s education stakeholders’ task force, which include everything from a new, more generous teacher pay system to advancing students to the next grade based on mastery, rather than age.

Gramer says the 85 current and retired CEOs and top executives who make up the group see the task force recommendations as a “strategic plan” for education in Idaho. “Public education is like a $1.4 billion business in Idaho – we spend that much money,” he said. “There’s probably not a $1.4 billion enterprise in the country that doesn’t have a strategic plan.” You can read my full story here at

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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