Idaho state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra told legislative budget writers this morning that she is “truly honored to come before you a fourth time on behalf of Idaho’s children.” She’s proposing a 6.8 percent increase in state general funds for K-12 public schools next year; Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal comes in at a 6 percent increase.
“Today’s public school budget request reflects the top priority I’ve heard in conversations around the state from our superintendents, our teachers, our trustees, our business leaders, our parents and many many more,” Ybarra said. She said it’s guided by her strategic plan, which focuses on three goals: 1 – that all Idaho students persevere in life and are ready for college and careers; 2 - All education stakeholders are mutually responsible for accountability on student progress; and 3 – That Idaho attracts and retains “great teachers and leaders.”
“As a veteran teacher myself,” Ybarra said, “I know the reward of our work is of course the success that you’ll see in the classroom.” Taking stock of where Idaho stands in its five-year plan to improve schools, she said, “We are on the right track.”
“Systematic change often takes a lot of time,” Ybarra said, adding that she often describes it as “trying to put a sweater on an octopus.”
“We are seeing some early results in some key areas,” she said. “For example, we’ve increased the graduation rates. There’s been huge increases in high school students earning college credits while still in high school, as well. Programs such as these save our families thousands in college costs down the road, thanks to your support.”
“But there is still much more work to do,” Ybarra said. Idaho still has “some challenges to face,” she said, from an educator shortage to addressing bullying and harassment.
Education stakeholders across the state, she said, have sent a clear message: “No new initiatives or line items, cut the red tape … stay the course, keep the target attainable, trust in our local boards.” If the state keeps the target steady, she said, local education officials tell her, “We will hit it.”