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Attempts to bring the state's education budget back to pre-recession levels

This Week in Education


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Idaho Capitol Building

— Education continues to make a splash at the Idaho Capitol, as Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter attempts to bring the state's education budget back to pre-recession levels.

Early learning had the spotlight last week as supporters of the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children rallied on the statehouse steps donning red scarves, and children played with blocks in the rotunda for BLOCK Fest, all in the name of promoting pre-kindergarten education.

Currently, Idaho is one of 10 states -- including neighboring states Montana, Wyoming and Utah -- that does not allocate public funding to early childhood education.

In presentations to the house and senate education committees, pediatrician Noreen Womack and Priscilla Salant of the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research presented the center’s findings on early learning and rural education, saying early learning is a critical part of preparing children for learning in school.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Otter proposed $10.7 million go toward intervention support for students in kindergarten through third grade who are not yet proficient on the state reading indicator, a test Dr. Cheryl Finley, director of assessment for the State Department of Education, said is 20 years old and needs an update in a presentation to the Senate Education Committee last Thursday, Feb. 11.

Dr. Finley was joined by state superintendent Sherri Ybarra as Finley presented on results of the Idaho Standards Achievement Tests by Smarter Balanced (SBAC).

Last year was the first time Idaho students were assessed based on the new test.

Dr. Finley said most schools had no complaints about the new SBAC, though a lack of graders to assess the writing portion, a software glitch, and a system shutdown caused the test to receive a “poor” rating in its timeliness of results.

In the same meeting, Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, (R), District 7, proposed a bill to codify a teacher’s right to reference the Bible in class.

Senator Janie Ward-Engelking, (D), District 18, questioned why a bill would be necessary, since teachers may already reference the Bible.

She also questioned whether the bill would prompt other proposals to spell out many more religious texts.

Sen. Nuxoll said the proposal specifically references the Bible because of its cultural significance to America.

"It’s to clarify and make sure teachers know their rights," Sen. Nuxoll said.

This week, superintendents from around the state will gather in Boise to make their pitches to the legislature.

Gov. Otter reiterated his dedication to his original education budget goals on Thursday at an annual Headliner’s breakfast for the press.

"My priority is still my entire education package," Gov. Otter said.

He spoke at length on his proposed “tuition lock,” which he said would give students and their families the ability to plan for tuition costs and a motivation to finish college in four years.


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