Is Education a top priority in Idaho?

Educators, business and political leaders agree to reach the goal of having 60% of high school graduates earning a post-secondary degree by 2020 are needed to improve our economy and assure our children a prosperous future. The interim President Don Burnett, University of Idaho told lawgivers, “Idaho has a workforce imbalance: an oversupply of workers with high school educations or less, and an undersupply of workers with post-secondary educations.”

This is the reason why Idaho is the nation which has the highest percentage of minimum-wage workers. After struggling over education for years the struggles the state finally has a consensus on a road map for Idaho’s public schools. But a commitment from the elected leaders is what is still needed.

Governor Otter called education his “top priority.” But an alternative plan was released by former state economist Mike Ferguson and it “reflects a different set of priorities,” the state could raise school spending by 8.3 percent instead of the governor’s proposed 2.9 percent.

Ferguson says that Idaho cannot bear to cut taxes again and finance the task force proposals. Even though the corporates and top earners have received $35 million cuts in taxes in recent years, Idaho's public schools have faced major funding cuts in the nation. Idaho is a state where schools are second last in spending per student. Other than Utah all the bordering states spend between 23 - 132 percent more per student in comparison to Idaho.

94 of Idaho’s 115 school districts have supplemental levies. Thirty-nine districts have shifted to a 4-day school week to save money as they struggle to even keep the lights on and pay the teachers.

The question to be considered by the public of Idaho is that are they ready to take the necessary steps to create a school system which can honestly prepare the children in the state to compete with the students from other states in skills to be able to get high-paying jobs?

A broad with the combination of parents, educators, child advocates, and business leaders stand behind the Idaho Core Standards, which build expectations for our students, most of these either are unable to go to college or require remediation once there. The Legislature is also set to analyze a bill proposing state support for pre-K education, an area where Idaho now sadly lingers behind at least 40 states.

If the elected leaders of the state continue with the same approach towards education which they have had for the past years, offering minimal, inadequate support then the results would always be the same, unequal opportunities and not enough students continuing beyond high school.

As the parents, educators, and businesses it is important to fulfill a constitutional and moral responsibility to give every child in Idaho an education which prepares them for college or a good-paying job.

As an organization working towards achieving these goals we request you, our fellow Idahoans to either call or email legislators and request them to support the request for an increase in education funding as proposed in Mike Ferguson’s alternative budget.