Governor’s higher-ed ‘CEO’ pitch may not make it past lawmakers

Gov. Butch Otter speaks to reporters Thursday during a forum organized by the Idaho Press Club.
Gov. Butch Otter speaks to reporters Thursday during a forum organized by the Idaho Press Club.

This week’s education headlines:

Postsecondary numbers inch upward. In 2016, 40.6 percent of Idaho adults held either a college degree or a professional certificate, according to a new national study. That’s an improvement, and the fourth consecutive year of improvement, but Idaho still ranks No. 45 in the nation. And Idaho has a loftier goal: State leaders want 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds hold a degree or certificate.

Otter meets the press. Gov. Butch Otter has all but given up on one of his big legislative goals for 2018: hiring a “CEO” to streamline Idaho’s higher education system. “(It’s) probably not finding the soft landing that I hoped it would,” Otter told reporters during a question-and-answer session Thursday morning. In the wake of Wednesday’s mass shooting at a Florida high school, Otter deflected questions on gun control.

Scholarship bill draws fire. A House committee introduced a bill to create new scholarships students could use to pursue an education outside the public school system. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, said his goal is to provide options for parents. Three major education groups oppose the bill, saying they can’t support any proposal that could steer state resources away from public schools.

Savings accounts grow. Idaho school districts and charter schools parked more than $275 million into savings accounts in 2017 — up from $215 million just two years earlier. Practices vary widely; some schools maintain large savings accounts, relative to operating budgets, while others operate with little or no cushion. And some districts have built up savings while seeking and passing supplemental property tax levies.

A Teton border battle. Some residents in the tiny Eastern Idaho community of Teton want to peel off from the Fremont County School District to the Sugar-Salem School District. Supporters say some students in the affected area already attend Sugar-Salem schools, which are closer to Teton anyway, but opponents think the move will split the community. “We don’t want no Mason-Dixon line running through here,” said Teton resident Joe Law.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News ( Idaho Education News is an independent news site focused on education policy and politics, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Richert has worked in the Idaho news media since 1985, as a reporter, editor and columnist.