BOISE – Gov. Butch Otter’s education improvement task force waded deep into politics Friday, voting nearly unanimously to support new nationwide education standards for reading, writing and math that face a nascent effort by some Idaho lawmakers to derail them come the 2014 Legislature.
The task force, assembled by Otter eight months ago, met to finalize recommendations to the Republican governor on how Idaho can best boost the number of people with a postsecondary degree to 60 percent, from just 35 percent now. The panel was created after Idaho voters rejected the Students Come First education overhaul last November, with Otter saying he wanted to use it to build more public support for changes to the state’s education system.
All 31 panelists except one – Madison School District Superintendent Geoff Thomas – voted to support Idaho’s push to advance with so-called “Common Core” requirements in 2014 that are part of a 45-state effort to align educational standards across America from the more-fragmented existing system. Common Core has become mired in divisive debate across the country, as groups such as the National Republican Party have labeled it an “inappropriate overreach.”
In Idaho, lawmakers including former House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, have suggested plans to scuttle Common Core when the Legislature meets in January.
Before Friday’s vote, state schools head Tom Luna pointed out that while some 90 percent of Idaho high school students meet reading targets and nearly 85 percent meet math goals, nearly half of students who go on to college require remediation classes – a sign, he said, that Idaho’s existing standards are insufficient.