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Idaho Education Notecard, Jan. 26, 2018

This week was “Education Week” at the Statehouse — as the focus turned to K-12 and university budgets. The headlines:

Ybarra makes her pitch. On Thursday, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra urged legislative budget-writers to adhere to the K-12 reboot recommended by Gov. Butch Otter’s K-12 task force. “As we take stock of the five-year plan to improve K-12 education, we are on the right track,” Ybarra said. Her budget request would increase K-12 spending by more than $113 million. More HERE.

A focus on the teacher shortage. Ybarra’s top priority is the career ladder, and an additional $41.7 million for teacher salaries. As she called for an investment in “human capital,” she reminded lawmakers that Idaho faces a serious teacher shortage. According to a report issued Monday by Ybarra’s office, Idaho has a 19.7 percent teacher turnover rate — and high-poverty and low-performing schools are hit the hardest. More HERE.

Mixed reviews for the “CEO.” The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee kicked off Education Week by drilling down on Gov. Butch Otter’s $769,500 higher ed “chief education officer” proposal. They looked for answers about structure and the potential for cost savings, and the answers proved sketchy. More HERE. Later in the week, retiring Boise State University President Bob Kustra again questioned whether a CEO would be able to wring millions of dollars of redundancies out of the system, while retiring Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas endorsed the idea. More HERE.

Pushback from budget-writers. As JFAC worked through the University of Idaho’s budget request, lawmakers grilled Otter’s budget team. Several lawmakers questioned why Otter rejected several of the universities’ project requests, just as the state is trying to get more high school graduates to continue their education. Otter’s team says the governor is focusing on recommendations from his higher education task force — such as a boost in scholarships and the CEO proposal. More HERE.

A surprising ranking. Over the past five years, Idaho’s state funding for higher education has improved by 33 percent; only eight states posted a larger increase. That’s one surprising finding from Grapevine, a project of Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers. Grapevine asked states to report funding for two- and four-year colleges; budgets for higher education governing boards; two-year career-technical schools; and student scholarships and financial aid. More HERE.

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.

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