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Otter’s education proposals draw response

On Monday, Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter gave his plans in his State of the State address, which included a lot of talk about education. On Tuesday, Day 2 of the legislative session, other state officials were weighing in on his proposals.

In the State of the State, Otter said he wanted to see education move from K-12 to K-career.

The Democrats want to see it one further – pre-K-career.

Although many Democratic lawmakers were encouraged by the focus on education, they believe it’s not enough. Senate Minority Leader John Rusche said public school support is still $100 million lower than it was pre-Recession.

“Can anyone honestly say that a drop of $930 dollars per child is anything but harmful?” said Rusche. “If replacing funding in K-12 and higher education was the top priority, why do we see tax cut proposals each year and only puny little efforts to replace education funding?”

Some said they are also worried that funding for teacher salaries is being cut. That’s the opposite from the task force recommendation, which was to raise the minimum pay.

“The governor and I are on the same page, just not on the same paragraph,” said Tom Luna, the Republican state superintendent of public instruction.

The page? Improving education. The paragraph? How to do it.

Luna wants to add funding to teacher pay, as this year’s proposed budget has $21 million less for that than last year.

“A lot of people are calling it a salary cut,” said Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, who serves on the House Education Committee. “There has been no mention of cutting salaries. It’s (because) the one-time teacher performance pay that was in the budget last year has not been included this year.”

The governor is aiming to roll out the task force recommendations in five years. Luna and some lawmakers believe it can be done in three.

The start of what is sure to be a long conversation about education funding begins Wednesday, when the House Education Committee meets for the first time this session.

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