Little: Social-emotional program is ‘the right thing to do’

Spending money on social-emotional learning — and providing help for students at risk — is the right thing to do, Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday.

Gov. Brad Little addresses reporters at an Idaho Press Club breakfast Wednesday. Sami Edge/Idaho Education News

During a question-and-answer session with Statehouse reporters, Little defended SEL programs, which ran into resistance in the House Education Committee last week.

“The challenges our students face are almost incredible,” Little said at an Idaho Press Club breakfast.

Little and state superintendent Sherri Ybarra have recommended $1 million for SEL, to provide training for school employees. Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force recommended SEL in November. That was the backdrop on Feb. 11, when Ybarra and her staff made a presentation on SEL to House Education. While the discussion was not just centered on the budget request alone, some lawmakers questioned the need for training and were openly skeptical of the initiative.

On Wednesday, Little attributed this blowback to a misunderstanding about the needs of today’s young people. “I think we’re getting there,” he said.

Little pointed out that Idaho’s proposal isn’t unique. Other states are pushing SEL programs — and as Education Week reported last week, SEL proposals have drawn fire elsewhere.

Little couches the $1 million proposal as a long-term investment. In order to curb corrections spending, he said, the state needs to address mental health issues and substance abuse problems in its schools.

“But most importantly, it’s the right thing to do for these kids,” Little said.



Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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