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A year of cracking down on a top Idaho incentive designed to attract businesses has resulted in fewer applicants vying for the program, the AP reports. Idaho’s workforce development training fund reimburses companies for training employees who would otherwise lose their job for not having the right specialized skills. In fiscal year 2015, which ended in June, the Idaho Department of Labor approved more than $6 million to help train employees at 11 different businesses and universities.
The dollar figure is nearly double than what was allocated a year before, but the number of companies benefiting from the award is the lowest it's been in five years. Agency Director Ken Edmunds says businesses have raised concerns that the new criteria are too strict, but he says they’re here to stay. You can read AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi’s full report here.
With longtime Idaho Department of Labor Director Roger Madsen's planned retirement taking effect today, Gov. Butch Otter has announced his pick for the new director: Ken Edmunds, a Twin Falls business consultant and current member of the state Board of Education. Madsen, an attorney and former state senator, was first appointed to the post by Gov. Phil Batt in 1995; the next three governors, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch and Otter, all retained him in the post.
“The Department of Labor has had extraordinary leadership under Roger for 18 years," Otter said in his announcement. "I’m confident that Ken will continue that tradition of excellence while bringing valuable perspective to the job of helping prepare Idaho’s workforce for the future.” He added, "Ken’s years on the Board of Education and his private-sector experience will be critically important in positioning the Department of Labor to advance its collaborative efforts with the education and economic development communities and Idaho employers.”
Edmunds has served on the Board of Education since 2008. He holds a master’s degree in accounting from BYU, and has had his own business, financial and real estate consulting business, Edmunds Group, for the past 25 years. His current state board term runs through 2018, so Otter will need to appoint a replacement to the board. Click below for Otter's full announcement.
Edmunds, 58, said he became interested in the job through his interest and work on workforce development and improving Idaho's economy through various state board projects. "It turns out if anything I probably have greater opportunities for workforce development and growing the economy through the Idaho Department of Labor than I would have in any other venue," he said. "It's an exciting opportunity and really just gives me a chance to pursue some of the things that I've become very focused on through the Board of Education."
Edmunds will start on Nov. 25; his salary has not been set yet. "We'll work it out - it's a detail," he said. "It's going to be hard to fill Roger's shoes." Said Edmunds, "He's done a wonderful job. The department is probably as well respected an entity as you're going to find."
Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said what the voters said last week "matters a great deal." He said, "If people aren't satisfied with what we're doing, they're not going to support further change."
The board will hold a special meeting Monday to vote on a series of rule changes, including possibly repealing the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online courses to graduate from high school; doing away with a funding scheme that automatically diverts school districts funds to online course providers if students opt to take courses online, with or without their school district's permission; and considering whether to reconsider rules regarding teacher and principal evaluations. Those follow voters' overwhelming rejection last week of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, repealing the "Students Come First" school reform laws that lawmakers enacted in 2011.
During the campaign, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the author of the "Students Come First" laws, said repeatedly that the online graduation requirement wouldn't go away even if voters rejected Proposition 3, because it was in a state board rule.
Edmunds said, "I still believe that online education is part of the future. I am not certain that the two credits is necessarily the answer. It creates a one size fits all approach." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.