Gramer: ‘We are fighting every day’ for Common Core

The head of Idaho Business for Education touted Idaho’s 20-point plan for reforming education — with a particular focus on Common Core.

Rod Gramer
Rod Gramer

“We are fighting every day to keep those standards,” Idaho Business for Education CEO Rod Gramer said at a City Club of Boise forum on Idaho’s disappearing middle class.

Maintaining the new English language arts and math standards are crucial to preparing Idaho students for college and careers, said Gramer, and Idaho should not follow other states that have abandoned the standards. There has been little public discussion at the Statehouse about repealing the Idaho Core Standards, established in 2013, but several bills have focused on undercutting the Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced, the new online exam aligned to the standards.

Gov. Butch Otter’s education task force issued 20 recommendations in August 2013 — and one of the recommendations urged the state to adopt Common Core. The task force gave Idaho a blueprint for education reform, Gramer said, and the Legislature is making “great progress” in adopting the $350 million plan.

One key and costly plank in the task force report still remains unaddressed: legislation to adopt a $175 million career ladder to boost teacher pay and shift to a tiered teacher licensure system. No career ladder/tiered licensure bill has been introduced during the first 44 days of the 2015 legislative session.

But another panelist, state Commerce Department director Jeff Sayer, said he is noticing a change in tone in the debate over paying for education and infrastructure. Lawmakers are no longer talking about whether they support investments, and are instead talking about how and where to make the investments.

However, Sayer said the state needs to attract outside capital to pay for needed programs, since taxes alone won’t cover the costs. “It’s mathematically impossible,” he said.

Disclosure: Kevin Richert is a City Club of Boise board member.