In his inaugural State of the State address on Jan. 8, Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter called education the highest budget priority in a year when the state has a new governor, a new speaker of the House, and a new state superintendent.
Gov. Otter, a Republican, recommended a $1.36 billion general-fund appropriation for public education in Fiscal 2008, up from the $1.29 billion appropriated in Fiscal 2007. That amount for elementary and secondary education would represent a significant increase from last year, when his predecessor, Dirk Kempthorne, also a Republican, proposed just over $1.04 billion for the same purpose for Fiscal 2007.
In expectation of the added funding, state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, a Republican newly elected to the office, is pledging $5 million for classroom supplies and $10 million for textbooks.
Gov. Otter also is recommending $275.6 million for higher education, including $12.9 million for faculty salaries, and he unveiled an effort to increase the percentage of high school graduates who continue on to college, now one of the lowest in the nation. Gov. Otter is proposing a $38 million needs-based-scholarship endowment, the earnings of which would provide at least $2 million a year in such scholarships.
The governor also echoed his predecessor’s call for greater access to community college in the state.
“We already have the legal framework in place to create additional community college districts with the support of local voters,” Mr. Otter said. To that end, he favors lowering the voter-approval requirement for establishing such districts from two-thirds to 60 percent, provided that the vote is held in conjunction with general elections.
A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2007 edition of Education Week