Speaking at an Associated Press legislative preview Friday, Idaho Governor Butch Otter hinted at some of his priorities for the 2017 session.
Otter traditionally unveils his budget and policy plans in his State of the State speech, which he gives on the first day of the session, which is Monday. But he did give a sneak peek Friday morning when he said his main focus will be education.
He’ll ask lawmakers for $58 million for the teacher pay raise program known as the Career Ladder. The five-year plan is in its third year and Otter says the goals are straightforward.
“Keep good teachers, pay teachers well and improve our classroom performances and thus our student performances,” says Otter.
Otter predicts the legislative session will be short. He says he’s not going to prepare a tax relief bill, even though he’s expecting proposals from members of the legislature. But he is worried about a transportation funding shortfall. He says Idaho is falling behind on road maintenance and that “the economy directly depends upon it.”
Otter is also putting together a task force to look at improving graduation rates in higher education.
Using an Executive Order, Otter is creating a 28-member working group to create a five-year plan for higher education in Idaho.
Otter says the task force will work towards a benchmark of getting 60 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 34 in Idaho to have a college degree or a certification in some skill by the year 2020.
“From all aspects, how can we improve our higher education efforts? How can we be more efficient and more effective in reaching that 2020 goal?” Otter says.
He says The Higher Education Task Force will include Idaho’s college and university presidents, businessmen, legislators and students. He hopes to get a blueprint of recommendations from the group by fall.
Otter says he created the group after what he said was the success of the 2013 K-12 task force which came up with 20 recommendations for improving public education in Idaho.
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