Eye On Boise

Dems respond to Otter, call for education improvements

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, speaks as House and Senate Democrats give their response to GOP Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State message. (Betsy Russell)
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, speaks as House and Senate Democrats give their response to GOP Gov. Butch Otter's State of the State message. (Betsy Russell)

House and Senate Democrats, responding today to Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State message yesterday, pledged to work with majority Republicans, but also outlined sharp differences, especially over funding priorities. “Our budgeting shows our values,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. “Idaho’s public schools have seen deep cuts. The majority claims that these cuts were unfortunate results of a national recession. We strongly disagree. These cuts were choices, intentional and deliberate.” He said, “Idaho budget policy is starving schools. Every community that has had to pass a school override levy to pay for basic school costs understands that this is true. Every rural school district that has had to drop from offering school five days a week down to four days a week knows this is true.”

Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said there was room to put much more toward implementing an education stakeholders task force’s reform plan next year than Otter allocated, “if you look at the governor’s budget, and you look at what he set aside for tax relief and you look at what he set aside for savings accounts.”

Senate Majority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “Idaho’s Democratic lawmakers will consider every proposal that has the potential to improve our economy, help our businesses and benefit our families. We will partner with anyone who shares this goal.”

The minority Democrats said their bills to place into law the education task force’s recommendations, already endorsed by GOP schools Superintendent Tom Luna, will be out soon. “There are some coordination issues we need to work out with the governor’s office, with the superintendent, with others,” Burgoyne said. “It is, in my estimation, quite a bipartisan effort.”

The Democrats said they’ll push for a pre-K pilot program, for efforts to attract more high-wage jobs, and for education improvements. As a minority, Rusche said, “Remember that we cannot make things happen by ourselves, but we can help lead in the direction.”




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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