Education task force meets 11-4-19

Gov. Brad Little's education task force meets in Boise on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019.

After five months of work and 28 combined meetings, Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 task force voted today to approve all five recommendations that were pending before it, on topics ranging from increasing teacher pay to all-day kindergarten, writes Idaho EdNews reporter Clark Corbin. The votes weren't unanimous, however, with several GOP legislators on the task force either abstaining or voting against some of the recommendations, Corbin reports. 

"Gov. Little’s first priority is to ensure Idaho prepares students for lifetime learning and eventual careers, and he appreciates the task force’s hard work over the course of the year to come up with final recommendations," said Little's spokeswoman, Marissa Morrison. "Gov. Little will choose from the task force’s final recommendations to establish his budget and legislative agenda for the 2020 legislative session."

The five recommendations are:

1) Statewide accountability focusing on K-3 literacy.

2) Greater all-day kindergarten opportunities to support K-3 literacy and future student achievement. This recommendation calls for additional statewide funding for all-day kindergarten, with kindergarten enrollment remaining optional for Idaho parents.

3) Building out and updating the teacher career ladder salary allocation program to elevate the profession and retain effective educators. That includes the long-planned $60,000 rung at the top.

4) Addressing social and emotional issues to support student learning. This includes addressing issues of trauma and mental illness among students.

5) Strategic alignment and increased flexibility in the K-12 funding formula.

When he created the 26-member task force on May 15, Little asked the group to help him map out a five-year education plan focused on early literacy and college and career readiness, Corbin writes.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer and House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, abstained in all five votes on Monday. Rep. Wendy Horman, the Idaho Falls Republican who serves as the House vice chair of the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, voted against building out the career ladder, against the funding formula flexibility recommendation and against all-day kindergarten.

On the other hand, Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and the task force’s Democratic legislators voted in favor of each recommendation.

“Our students, teachers, and Idaho’s businesses desperately need a first-class, quality education system for all Idahoans regardless of their zip code,” said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise. “The recommendations that were submitted to the governor would be an impactful step in the right direction if they are implemented by the state. We are hopeful, going into the legislative session, our fellow lawmakers will understand the importance and urgency of our work on the task force. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us to ensure they have a bright future.”

Kari Overall, president of the Idaho Education Association and a member of the task force, lauded the proposals in a statement, calling them "a positive step forward in our efforts to create the public schools Idaho students deserve." Overall said the recommendations would address a "crisis in teacher retention in Idaho." Also, she said, "We heard from virtually every constituency about the urgent need for more resources and training related to student mental and emotional health, as well as the importance of full-day kindergarten as a foundation for academic success." 

After the meeting, Horman told Eye on Boise, "I have fiscal concerns as well as policy concerns around full-day kindergarten."

She said she's concerned about the state revenue picture. "My vote was whether I thought these should be recommended to the governor to be discussed this session as the priorities for this session. And I think the revenue situation is going to limit what we can do in terms of new programs and new funds."

However, she noted, "These are recommendations to the governor, and he's as well aware of the revenue situation as we are."

You can read Corbin's full report here at idahoednews.org

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