By GOV. BUTCH OTTER
As Idaho students head back to school, I’m reminded of how far we’ve come toward improving education in Idaho—and how far we still need to go. It’s been an interesting and instructive journey, and one that reinforces my belief that how we get where we’re going is just as important as the destination.
For students, teachers and parents around Idaho, the new school year is full of opportunity and possibility.
Almost two years ago, I called on education stakeholders to join policymakers in charting a bold new course for Idaho’s schools. In response, the State Board of Education assembled a diverse group of working educators, business leaders, legislators and other experts. The product of their work was a slate of 20 visionary recommendations that now serve as our path forward on improving education. It is the first time in Idaho history that we have a school improvement plan supported by teachers, administrators, patrons, the business community and leaders of both political parties.
In early August, the State Board of Education approved a new tiered certification system for Idaho teachers. This is a bold first step toward fully implementing the taskforce recommendations calling for elevation of the teaching profession, more compensation, and additional mentoring, planning time and support for Idaho teachers. As we invest new taxpayer resources we also will increase accountability, ensuring the focus remains on the students and their growth as the single overriding goal. Idaho teachers deserve the chance to excel in that context, and I have every confidence that they will.
We are continuing to implement my five-year plan for responsibly and sustainably putting the other taskforce recommendations in place. I have committed to replenish classroom dollars and we are poised to continue building on this year’s $35 million investment in operating funds. This money not only supports our teachers and administrators, but also will continue building more effective classroom learning environments in a number of meaningful ways.
Taskforce committees continue to emphasize the value of technology for our classrooms. As I have often said, technology that each of us use in our daily lives has the potential to expand opportunities for kids across Idaho. We are poised to build on our success in providing dedicated broadband Internet access for every Idaho high school—opening up a world of connectivity for our students, particularly those in rural and underserved areas.
We also are connecting the dots between education and the world of work. While we are investing more in our community colleges, universities and professional-technical programs, it is important to recognize that implementing the taskforce recommendations is a foundational element of my K-through-Career effort to ensure at least 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25-34 having a post-secondary degree or professional certification by 2020.
For students, teachers and parents around Idaho, the new school year is full of opportunity and possibility. Thanks to the dedicated work of our State Board of Education and our taskforce of educators and other stakeholders, we are embarking on a journey of great promise. We are on a course that provides both more opportunity for our students and greater support for teacher excellence—and we are doing it together.
There is no journey more exciting, more worthwhile, or more important for Idaho’s future.
Butch Otter, a Republican, is serving his second term as Idaho governor.