BOISE - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter today endorsed the sweeping recommendations of his school reform task force, including restoring tens of millions cut from school budgets during Idaho’s recession years.
“It met every one of my expectations of what we could come out with,” the governor said.
Otter said he’s asked his Division of Financial Management to put a price tag on the 21 proposals. “We know it’s going to be roughly 350 million bucks,” he said. “We … know we can’t do that in one year, we can’t do that in two years, or maybe three years. But what we can do is set ourselves on a course that we accomplish so much each year, and … four or five years out, we’ve accomplished the entire package.”
The recommendations include big increases in teacher pay as part of a new ‘career ladder;’ advancing students to the next grade only when they’ve mastered the material; changing the school funding formula; boosting school technology; raising standards for student achievement; expanding professional development and mentoring for teachers; and a new tiered professional licensing structure.
Otter, who spoke about the reforms in response to questions at his annual “Governor’s Address to the Business Community” speech to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce today, said he met with legislative leaders this morning and discussed the task force recommendations, which were developed by a 31-member panel he appointed to represent all sides in the school reform debate, including both opponents and backers of Idaho’s voter-rejected Students Come First school reforms.
That reform plan, which included supplying a laptop computer to every high school student, a new focus on online learning, and rolling back teachers’ collective bargaining rights, was resoundingly rejected by Idaho voters last November. Otter appointed the task force in the wake of that rejection; it includes lawmakers, teachers, administrators, school board members, parents, union representatives, activists, officials and business leaders.
Otter thanked the task force members, who worked on their recommendations for eight months, including months of work in subcommittees, before adopting their proposals last week. They held seven public hearings around the state before crafting their plan.
“They will continue to stay involved,” the governor said, “because we will formulate a path forward and they have drawn the road map.”
Among the task force’s recommendations is restoring more than $82 million a year in school funding cut from Idaho’s state budget in recent years. “We’ve got to backfill some things,” Otter declared. “There were some cuts that we made between ’08 and ’10 that were necessary, but unfortunate.”
The governor said, “As we accomplish that backfilling, then I think we can have more consideration … on the technology opportunities that we have in the classroom, and the teaching aids that that technology gives us.”
Otter said the task force recommendations point the way “so that we can really accomplish the dictates of our constitution that says we should provide for a system of free, uniform and thorough common public schools.”