IEA Hotline—January 3, 2020
At today’s Associated Press legislative preview event, Gov. Brad Little doubled down on his previous statements about the importance of investing in Idaho’s public schools. He made particular note of the recommendations put forth by his K-12 task force, Our Kids, Idaho’s Future, and promised more information on his policy objectives in Monday’s State of the State Address.
The annual event also featured legislative leaders from both chambers and both parties, who fielded questions from reporters in advance of the 2020 session. Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise represented the House. Pro tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, and Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, participated in the Senate perspective.
Specifics on education policy were scarce, but there was considerable related discussion about rising property taxes, local school district levies and bonds, impact fees, and revenue projections. “Maybe the single biggest thing we could do for property tax relief is genuinely funding public education at the state level,” said Rubel. “I’m sure that would be greatly appreciated by local taxpayers.”
“The legislature tends to punt responsibility down to local governments without giving them the necessary tools,” added Stennett. “We are the fastest-growing state, but we haven’t done anything to address infrastructure, wages, or other factors related to that growth. Some in this legislature is due for a reality check.”
Little touched on the subject of growth in his remarks as well, pointing to the double-edged sword dynamic that comes with it. He prioritized a public education system that keeps pace with Idaho’s rapid growth, in particular focusing on the K-12 task force recommendations and early childhood literacy. “Reaching 100% on the third grade IRI is a big, hairy, audacious goal; but why not aim for it?” he asked.
“We have been vocal in our support of the task force recommendations, which include improved pay for veteran teachers, increased full-day kindergarten opportunities (which ties directly to early childhood literacy), and increased emphasis on student mental and emotional health,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “We look forward to working with the governor, the legislature, and education stakeholder groups to implement these important recommendations.”
Several other topics were brought up during the legislative preview, including redistricting, the ballot initiative process, criminal justice reform, Medicaid expansion, grocery tax repeal, and the process of approving new rules. The rules debate, including rules pertaining to the Idaho Content Standards, are likely to dominate the early weeks of the session.
Governor Little will deliver his State of the State address Monday at 1:00 p.m. Look for a statement from the IEA regarding his comments later that day.