Idaho Gov. Butch Otter backs school funding proposal
BOISE – Idaho Gov. Butch Otter endorsed the sweeping recommendations of his school reform task force on Tuesday, including restoring large cuts to school budgets made 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.
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 licensing structure.
Otter, who spoke about the reforms in response to questions at his annual address to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, said he met with legislative leaders earlier in the day and discussed the task force recommendations. They 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.
Otter thanked the task force members, who worked on their recommendations for eight months, including seven public hearings around the state and months of work in subcommittees, before adopting their proposals last week.
“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 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.”