Governor Otter promises boost education funding by $82.5 million
By Josh Altic
Boise, Idaho: Governor Butch Otter expressed his wish to bring education funding levels back to those seen in 2008. Otter had this to say to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce: “We’ve got to backfill some things. There were some cuts we made between ’08 and ’10 that were necessary but unfortunate.” He met with a group of legislative leaders, including House Speaker Scott Bedke (R-27A) on August 27 to discuss the recommendations provided by an education task force put together by Otter in December of 2012. The panel issued a report last week in which they suggested increasing the minimum salary of teachers from $31,000 to $40,000 and giving long term educators up to $60,000, with the top salaries tied to performance. Among the panel’s teacher salary recommendations, they also urged boosting classroom technology and wireless access and funding the implementation of new Idaho Core Standards in the areas of math, reading and writing.
It was estimated that to accomplish each item suggested by the task force the state would have to fork over $350 million. In response to this figure Otter said, “We can’t do that in one year, we can’t do it in two years, or maybe three — I wish we could, but we can’t. But what we can do is set ourselves on a course that we accomplish so much every year, and four or five years out we accomplish the entire package. So I want to see what those prices are and what we can prioritize first.” Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde (R-4) was critical of the projected spending and said that there is a real danger of putting too much financial stress on the state budget. Others argue that retaining quality teachers is essential and worth the risk.