This past week saw the end of the public forums hosted by Gov. Butch Otter's education task force, but the work is just beginning. For Idaho to build the educated state we're hoping for, we can't stop now.
The task force is looking for ways to improve Idaho's schools. For the past month they've been touring the state listening to the public's ideas about how that can be accomplished. The group has three areas of focus: Fiscal stability, structural change, and effective teachers and leaders.
We all have something to contribute on these topics. Idaho Business for Education, the group I am honored to serve as president and CEO, is dedicated to making the changes necessary to improve the state's public education system. We have adopted the State Board of Education's goal of having 60 percent of Idaho's 25- to 34-year-olds hold a college or associate degree or some kind of post-secondary certification by the year 2020.
We have a lot of work to do because right now only about 34 percent of Idaho's 25- to 34-year-olds meet that criteria.
Earlier this spring we published our "Field Guide to Education in Idaho." It showed that Idaho's students are lagging behind the nation in nearly every category, especially in reading and math. One of the most devastating statistics is that only four out of 10 Idaho high school graduates go on to college and of those only one graduates.
Yet studies show that in five short years more than 60 percent of Idaho's jobs will require some level of post-secondary education.
Clearly the business community has a stake in education because the students who are now in our system are our future employees and customers.
Sadly, right now many Idaho employers have to import talent into the state to fill their jobs. If that continues, it could affect the economic vitality of Idaho and our quality of life.
The issues facing our schools are not the responsibility of professional educators alone. They are the responsibility of all of us. That's why the IBE is dedicated to working with all stakeholders - parents, educators, political leaders and other community leaders - to make the changes necessary to attain education excellence.
If you want to learn more about the issues facing Idaho's education system, take a look at our Field Guide at www.idahobe.org or study the Don't Fail Idaho campaign at www.dontfailidaho.org. The State Board of Education also has good information on its website to get you thinking about these issues.
All of us play a role in helping improve Idaho's education system. That's why it is so important for you to share your ideas and concerns about education. Although the task force forums have ended, you can still send comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The more we inform ourselves and determine to be heard, the better chance we'll have of driving real change from our local and state policy makers and elected officials. We have a great opportunity. Let's seize it.
Rod Gramer is president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education, a group of nearly 100 Idaho businesses dedicated to education excellence.