A few quick observations from Wednesday’s City Club of Boise forum on the governor’s education task force (for a longer look, here’s a link to Clark Corbin’s story from Wednesday):
The pre-K question: First, panelists were asked about something that didn’t make the task force’s list of recommendations: pre-kindergarten.
Panelists said the idea was discussed, but didn’t make the cut of the 21 recommendations ultimately approved in August. Meridian School District Superintendent Linda Clark said it came down, in part, to focusing on building the public education system already in place.
This doesn’t necessarily mean pre-K won’t get discussed in the 2014 session. Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, one of the 230 or so attendees Wednesday, is working on a pre-K pilot bill.
The 60 percent goal: The talk circled back to what started the task force’s discussions in the first place. The State Board of Education wants 60 percent of Idahoans to receive some form of postsecondary degree or certificate by 2020.
This may require “cultural change,” and getting Idahoans to value postsecondary learning, said State Board member Richard Westerberg, chairman of the task force. But another factor is college affordability, said Mike Lanza of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together.
Operational funding: One of the mantras from the task force has been an admonishment to treat the recommendations as a holistic plan, not a menu of options. Still, Clark said the restoration of $82 million in “operational funding” is a high priority for districts.
Once widely called “discretionary funding,” districts argue that this money is critical — since it can be used to pay for everything from heating and utilities to employee health benefits. The task force recommends reversing these $82 million in recession-era cuts over five years — but in a past interview, Clark said that doesn’t move quickly enough to restore district budgets.
A quick hit: Lanza offered a one-liner that seemed to resonate with Wednesday’s audience, as he challenged Idahoans to find the political will to fund education differently. Failing to do so, he said, puts Idaho at risk of becoming “the Mississippi of the 21st century.”
Disclosure: As a City Club board member, I was the organizer of Wednesday’s forum.