A powerful winter storm played havoc with school schedules across Idaho this week. But in and around the Statehouse, the countdown to the 2017 legislative session continued uninterrupted. Let’s get caught up:
Higher ed task force Gov. Butch Otter will assemble a higher education task force — modeled after his 2013 group that forged a consensus on 20 K-12 issues. During a legislative preview sponsored Friday by the Associated Press, Otter unveiled the plan and explained its impetus. After several years of effort, the state’s college graduation rates still haven’t improved as Otter had hoped they would. Click here for details.
Support for the career ladder ... Otter Friday restated his support for the career ladder, Idaho’s five-year plan to boost teacher pay. The 2017-18 installment, Year 3 of the career ladder, carries a $58 million price-tag. The chairs of the House and Senate education committees voiced their support for the $58 million plan. Click here for details.
… but there’s a condition However, the issue of teacher evaluation data clouds the teacher salary debate. On Friday, Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke said a robust accountability system was a condition of the 2015 career ladder law — and that comes back to teacher evaluations. On Wednesday, the State Board of Education said it will not hire the firm that conducted a much-maligned evaluations review for the State Department of Education in 2016. Click here for details.
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A pivotal year for school choice? Donald Trump has nominated an unabashed school choice advocate, Betsy DeVos, as his education secretary, and wants to put $20 billion into school choice block grants. Nationally, school choice advocates are feeling they have momentum on their side, but the landscape in Idaho isn’t as clear. One Idaho advocate is hoping for incremental progress in 2017, while House Education Committee Chair Julie VanOrden wants to put the issue on hold until 2018. Click here for details.
Idaho gets a D-plus. Education Week released its national rankings of the states, and for Idaho, the grade wasn’t pretty. Idaho received a D-plus, ranking 48th in the nation. Many of the reasons were familiar: low per-pupil spending, low preschool enrollment and low college completion rates. Click here for details.
Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News, an independent news site focused on K-12 policy and politics. He has worked as an Idaho reporter, editor and columnist since 1985.