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Eye On Boise

Senators on panel endorse ‘go-on’ goal; lawmakers hear from Teachers of Year, Ybarra

Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little pitches a resolution to lawmakers backing the state Board of Education's goal for many more Idahoans to go on to post-secondary education (Betsy Z. Russell)
Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little pitches a resolution to lawmakers backing the state Board of Education's goal for many more Idahoans to go on to post-secondary education (Betsy Z. Russell)

Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little pressed the Senate and House Education committees today to support his resolution backing the state’s “go-on” goal, which calls for 60 percent of Idahoans age 25-34 to have a post-secondary degree or certificate by the year 2020. “It starts in our homes, where we teach our children the value of education and hard work and helping them be prepared to read when they start in school, but all along their education pathway, that we talk about the value of education,” Little told the two committees, which are meeting jointly this afternoon in the Lincoln Auditorium.

“This resolution acknowledges the rapid change that’s taking place in the world and in Idaho,” Little said. “These kids that are graduating right now need to be prepared for six or seven career changes over their lifetime, and a simple training in one narrow field is not adequate.”

Rod Gramer, head of Idaho Business for Education, said research shows that by 2020, 60 to 70 percent of the jobs in Idaho will require a post-secondary degree or certificate, and we’re not there. “The need for our employers is real – we need an educated workforce,” Gramer said. “Not achieving this goal has serious ramifications for our business community.”

Matt Freeman, executive director of the Office of the State Board of Education, said the state board adopted the 60 percent goal in 2010. “Currently we’re at about 40 percent,” he said. “It may be a stretch goal, but … the fact remains that we’re going to have the workforce need.”

Lawmakers questioned how Idaho can make that ambitious goal in just four years. Freeman listed initiatives aimed at accomplishing that, from the new “direct admission” program for Idaho high school students at Idaho colleges, to holding down tuition increases, to an array of programs aimed at encouraging Idaho high school students to “go on” to higher education, including new and enhanced scholarship programs proposed by Gov. Butch Otter this year. State Professional-Technical Education Director Dwight Johnson said PTE also is a part of it, as is enhancing career advising for high school students.

Little said, “Remember the state board started on this in 2010. ... I don’t think we should take our eye off the ball going forward.”

The Senate Education Committee voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, SCR 134, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. If it passes there, it would go to the House Education Committee for a vote, then to the full House.

Now, the House and Senate committees are hearing from Idaho's teachers of the year, which will be followed by a presentation from state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra entitled, "Our moment, our time in education." You can listen live here; click on "Lincoln Auditorium."

Melyssa Ferro, Idaho’s 2016 state Teacher of the Year, a middle school science teacher from Caldwell, told the lawmakers, “There are already qualified teachers in Idaho’s classrooms. We need to give them the resources that they need to continue doing the quality work that they are already doing for you.” She added, “Instead of finding ways to put unqualified people into classrooms, we need to address the issues of why our qualified teachers are moving in the first place, and it can be something as simple as increasing professional development opportunities, increasing the respect that we offer to people who serve in the trenches, offering these teachers more voice in the decisions.”

2015 Teacher of the Year Kim Zeydel, a math teacher at Meridian Academy, told the lawmakers “Why do alternative schools have low on-time graduation rates? Well, many of them start with us low.” She said, “What works for one student doesn’t work for all students.” Idaho Education News has profiles of Ferro here and Zeydel here.

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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