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Otter lauds session’s education advances

Gov. Butch Otter, center discusses Idaho's just-concluded legislative session on Monday; from left are Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and on the right, House GOP Caucus Chair Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Meridian. (AP/Idaho Statesman / Katherine Jones)
Gov. Butch Otter, center discusses Idaho's just-concluded legislative session on Monday; from left are Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, and on the right, House GOP Caucus Chair Rep. John VanderWoude, R-Meridian. (AP/Idaho Statesman / Katherine Jones)

Here is Gov. Butch Otter’s full end-of-session statement, released at the end of his news conference today; Otter lauded legislative accomplishments on K-12 and higher education, STEM education, school safety, new mental health crisis centers and public defense reform:

 

EDUCATION, K-THROUGH-CAREER EFFORTS ADVANCED BY 2016 IDAHO LEGISLATURE

(BOISE) – With the 2016 session of the Idaho Legislature adjourned, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter thanked lawmakers today for approving many of his recommendations aimed at improving public schools for Idaho children and enhancing career training for Idaho workers. 

“Even where we disagreed on some details, I found a constructive response from the Legislature on what should be a top priority for all of us – educating our citizens to compete and thrive here at home and in the global economy,” Governor Otter said. “Our K-through-Career investments, our striving for higher classroom and workplace goals and our focus on continuing to improve our education system at all levels are paying off. If sustained, they will continue to benefit the people of Idaho for years to come.”

Here are some of the successes identified by the Governor from the 2016 legislative session.

K -12 Task Force Recommendations

·   Funding the career ladder: $42 million. This fiscal year 2017 allocation is in addition to a continuing annual appropriation of $16.1 million for the educator leadership premiums portion of the “career ladder” advancement program for Idaho public school teachers, which was enacted with an initial investment of $33.5 million last year.

·   Restoring operational or “discretionary” funding: $31.3 million. This fully restores discretionary funding for school districts to fiscal 2009 level in three years rather than the five years recommended by the Task Force for Improving Education.

·   Advancing literacy: $9.1 million. This implements a Task Force recommendation to support increased intervention for struggling readers in kindergarten through third grades. In addition, legislative budget writers directed that $2.1 million in existing funds be used for K-3 reading intervention.

·   Improving college and career counseling: $5 million. New funding was approved to help school districts implement innovative advising models that best fit their needs. More and better advising is critical to increasing the number of Idaho high school graduates who pursue a postsecondary education.

·   Teacher professional development: $2.375 million. New funding was allocated to cover the local costs of on-the-job teacher professional development and collaboration, with a focus on mentoring new teachers. The additional funding brings the continuing annual investment in professional development for teachers to $16.4 million.

·   Classroom technology: $5 million. The additional funding for classroom technology brings the continuing annual support level to $18 million.

·   Statewide Wi-Fi services: $2.1 million.  The one-time investment will support expansion and maintenance of wireless broadband Internet infrastructure for school districts and charter schools.

·   Mastery‐based system planning and assessments: $1 million. A second year of funding was approved to continue development of a mastery-based education system. The new allocation brings ongoing annual funding to $1.4 million to support pilot programs in up to 20 schools or school districts in fiscal 2017.

Higher Education

·   Career and Technical Education postsecondary expansion: $3.8 million. This will build training capacity at Idaho’s six colleges and universities with technical programs aimed at producing more graduates in such high-demand career fields as health care, information technology, mechatronics and transportation.

·   Opportunity Scholarship: $5 million. This new annual appropriation will result in total available funding of almost $10.2 million, enabling the award of 1,825 new scholarships at $3,000 each and 1,572 renewals at $3,000 each.

·   Community college startup: $5 million. This one-time transfer to the Higher Education Stabilization Fund would provide startup funding if a new community college district is approved by voters in eastern Idaho.

·   Complete College Idaho: $2.6 million. This appropriation provides ongoing support for work at all eight public higher education institutions toward achieving the goal of at least 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25-34 having a college degree or post-secondary professional or technical certification by 2020.

·   Idaho National Laboratory-Boise State University Cybersecurity Program: $1 million. This funding will support development of a cybersecurity lab at Boise State in collaboration with experts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.     

·   WWAMI: $278,900. Additional funding for the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho (WWAMI) regional medical education program will help pay for up to 40 Idaho seats starting next fall, fulfilling a State Board of Education recommendation.   

Additional Education Highlights

·   Advancing science, technology, engineering and math or STEM education: An allocation of $1.5 million in ongoing funding and an additional $500,000 in one-time funding for the STEM Action Center.

·   Boosting targeted STEM initiatives: A one-time $2 million transfer to the new STEM Education Fund to support startup STEM education programs and projects throughout Idaho, including a new K-through-career computer science initiative.

·   Creating the Office of School Safety within the Division of Building Safety: $270,000. This builds on existing efforts to assess public school safety and security throughout Idaho. The new office will leverage an existing $300,000 in the School Security Assessment Fund for a total allocation of $570,000.

                Legislators also agreed to provide more cost-effective and responsive community-based care for those with acute substance abuse or mental health challenges. Governor Otter asked for funding to open one more behavioral health crisis center in southern Idaho to join those opened last year in Coeur d’Alene and the year before in Idaho Falls. However, lawmakers this session allocated funding for two centers – one in southwestern Idaho and one in the Magic Valley.

                And consistent with the Governor’s Executive Budget recommendation, the Legislature appropriated $5.5 million for the Public Defense Commission to advance efforts to reform Idaho’s constitutionally deficient public defense system. Grants from that funding will pay for counties to raise standards for public defenders representing indigent defendants.  

                                                                  

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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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