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State of the State reaction-o-rama

By now, you’ve digested the key points in Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed K-12 budget. Otter wants to reverse $35 million in recession-era cuts to school district operations budgets. He also proposes no pay raises for teachers.

Here’s a roundup of reactions.

State Superintendent Tom Luna: In a statement, he criticized Otter for freezing teacher salaries and cutting one-time money for merit pay plans. “Today, Gov. Otter set a positive tone for this legislative session, making it clear education is his top priority. I am pleased he made the implementation of our task force recommendations a priority and demonstrated his continued support for the Idaho Core Standards. My only concern is that the governor’s budget proposes reducing overall teacher compensation in order to help schools pay the light bill. I cannot support that. I believe we have the funding and the plan to accomplish both, and I will fight to ensure we continue to improve teacher compensation this year and in the future.”

Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr: She said Otter’s budget proposal “kicks the (teacher) salary can down the road.” “The IEA applauds the growing realization that public education is the key to Idaho’s future prosperity, but education doesn’t happen without quality teachers, and that critical piece of the equation has been overlooked in Gov. Otter’s proposed budget.”

Sen. Dean Cameron, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee: “We may have to find that middle ground,” he said in an interview with John Miller of the Associated Press. “The good news is, both (Otter and Luna) are proposing significant increases in education.”

House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston: “I guess the employees and the teacher salaries are lower on the priority scale, because they didn’t get anything,” he told Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley: “I’m intrigued by the new concept of K-through-Career,” he told Russell. “I think that is an important recognition that the goal of our education system is to get our citizens gainfully employed. I’ll look forward to finding out some more detail on that.”

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg: “I was very pleased with the emphasis he placed on education,” Hill told Idaho Education News’ Clark Corbin. “He talked about the possibility of additional tax cuts and stuff, but he put the funding of education ahead of that, very clearly ahead of that.”

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who is opposing Otter in the GOP gubernatorial primary: In a five-minute video response on his campaign website, Fulcher decried Otter’s “tepid leadership.” On education, said Fulcher, Otter promises “more implementation of a top-down education agenda that hinders local control and does nothing to improve education.”

From A.J. Balukoff, a Democratic candidate for governor: “While Gov. Otter’s State of the State address offers a lot of rhetoric about where Idaho needs to go, what he has actually shown us is the limit of his ability to take us there. … To give our kids, our economy and our state the future they deserve we need new leadership and to restore funding and make education a top priority.”

Rod Gramer, CEO of Idaho Business for Education, in an interview with the Idaho Statesman’s Bill Roberts: “I think the $35 million is a super down payment … to restore the (district) operating funds.”

Mike Lanza, founder of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, and a member of Otter’s education task force: “My fear is that Gov. Otter and legislative leaders will keep on saying education is their top priority, while quietly continuing their longstanding policy of disinvesting in our kids’ schools and hoping the public eventually stops paying attention.”

More reading, from Idaho Education News: Our complete coverage of Otter’s State of the State address.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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