Wednesday, December 06, 2023

EDITORIAL: Idaho has strong plan for education

| January 13, 2023 1:00 AM

Maybe they’ll become one of Idaho’s historic dynamic duos.

With legislative support, Gov. Brad Little and new Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield are poised to take public education to new heights. They’ll have a fight on their hands by extremists who see public education as a dragon to be slain, which is sad because it’s actually a knight in shining armor.

Public education can be the single most effective way to improve the lives of Idahoans for generations to come, and fortunately, our governor and schools leader understand and embrace that truth.

This week, Gov. Little unveiled a financial plan that would continue his years of work to strengthen Idaho education — taking it up a serious notch or two. Here are several of the major steps forward that legislators are being asked to fund:

• Support for deferred maintenance and other essential school district needs, thus easing the strain on property taxpayers

• Better pay for classified staff

• A revenue stream for school safety

• Better pay for teachers, including a boost that would take starting teacher pay to $47,477

• An $8,500 scholarship for any Idaho high school graduate to attend an Idaho university, community college, career-technical program or other workforce training program

• A $1,000 per child ($3,000 max per family) grant program that parents can use for tutoring, technology or other educational choices

A fair question is, are we simply throwing money at a problem or are there clear objectives in mind? Effective teachers in safe, well-run environments are key to learning, and Little’s funding priorities directly bolster that approach. Here’s where Critchfield comes in.

On the campaign trail, Critchfield forged alliances with school administrators and their bosses — members of local school boards. In addition to her years as an active, involved parent of four public schoolchildren, Critchfield has developed a deep understanding of what teachers want — and ways to attract the best and brightest to this most honorable of professions.

The Little/Critchfield duo can go a long way to further raising the bar for educational delivery across the state. They’ll get even more support from Lt. Gov. Scott Bedke, who, as a long-term legislator, was a champion of public education.

“I am proud of what we have accomplished together for our state, and I look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature as we strive to further strengthen public schools, infrastructure, businesses, families, and our economy,” said a Bedke press release. “Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Yes, let’s do, legislators.

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