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Governor Otter Outlines Vision for Future of Education

Written By onci on Monday, January 10, 2011 | 12:47 PM

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter presented his State of the State and State of the Budget address to kick off the 2011 Legislative Session.

In his State of the State address, Governor Otter referred to a plan that he and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna have created to change Idaho’s education system to educate more students at a higher level with limited resources.

Superintendent Luna will present the details of this plan to the Joint House and Senate Education Committees at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 12.

The following is the excerpt from Governor Otter’s State of the State Address that addresses K-12 public schools:

Now, we all know that one of State government’s most important responsibilities is maintaining a “general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

It was an unfortunate necessity that prompted us to reduce the current year’s General Fund public schools appropriation after two years of backfilling with reserve funds and one‐time federal money.

So while my budget recommendation does call for a little more State support for public schools, it also includes significant, targeted investments in our children’s future – investments like a third year of math and science in high school, and paying for all Idaho juniors to take college entrance exams.

Those investments are part of important changes that Superintendent Luna and I are proposing in the way our public schools do their jobs.

We’re proposing to improve Idaho’s education system by advancing the recommendations of our partners in this effort, led by Guy Hurlbutt and the Education Alliance of Idaho.

It will mean a fundamental shift in emphasis from the adults who oversee the process and administration to the best interests of our students.

Our priorities need to be refocused from how much we’re spending to how much our children are learning.

Now, it’s important for you to know that we’re starting from a position of strength. Idaho students continue to out‐perform national averages on math and reading.

That’s despite the fact that we spend far less per student than the national average, and less than half as much as New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.

Yet our Idaho students generally score higher on achievement tests.

Again, we need to refocus from how much we are spending to how much our children are learning – learning in large measure due to responsible parenting and the excellence and sustained efforts of our fine public school teachers.

That excellence should be rewarded – which is why Superintendent Luna and I are committed to establishing a pay system for teachers that emphasizes their performance, not their tenure.

Truly one of the bright spots of the past couple of years for me has been watching the impact of the Idaho Education Network’s expansion into every corner of our state.

I’ve watched and listened to classes delivered over broadband Internet connections. I’ve talked with the teachers and the high school students who already have earned 1,300 college credits by using the IEN.

I’ve seen how a calculus teacher in Eagle can reach students in Sandpoint and Sugar City.

I’ve seen how our Idaho students can use the IEN to take interactive guided tours of world‐class resources like the Great Barrier Reef, the Holocaust Museum, the Alaska Sea Life Center and NASA facilities.

And just as importantly, I’ve seen how the IEN is becoming a true community and economic development resource.

For example, Superintendent Jim Reed and Principal Dave Davies in Weiser opened up the high school’s IEN connection to the local Chamber of Commerce, which arranged for Idaho State University’s Workforce Training department to provide marketing and management training for local businesses.

Schools also are using the network to offer master’s degree programs, POST Academy training, firefighter and paramedic training, and professional development courses for teachers.

A growing number of school districts are embracing the opportunities. In Idaho Falls, the Bonneville School District is generating revenue and improving the educational experience for students by creating an e‐Center and a Virtual Academy.

The Vallivue School District in Caldwell also is rolling out a virtual school option for students, and several other districts are heading that direction.

Superintendent Luna and I will use the IEN at 3 p.m. today – right across the street at the Department of Education – to answer questions from reporters across the state about today’s address and our education initiatives. And Superintendent Luna will lay out all the details of our proposals this coming Wednesday.

Read the full text of Governor Otter’s State of the State.

~ Melissa M.
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