Little sticks to familiar themes at City Club forum

Gov. Brad Little didn’t make much news — on education or any other topics — as he fielded questions during an hour-long City Club of Boise forum Wednesday.

Little hinted at a bit of news. He said he was meeting Wednesday afternoon with college and university presidents to talk about higher education funding, and pledged to work with presidents and the State Board of Education on a long-term funding model.

In 2017, a gubernatorial task force recommended moving at least some higher education funding to an outcomes-based model — which means institutions could receive more money if students graduate within four years, for example, or if schools increase their enrollment of first-generation students or students of color.

Presidents at seven of Idaho’s eight two- and four-year colleges attended Wednesday’s forum; only University of Idaho President C. Scott Green was absent.

Beyond that, Little stuck to some recurring themes from his Jan. 6 State of the State address, and some familiar talking points:

  • Discussing one of his top priorities — early literacy — he put in a pitch for his $26 million program that allows local school districts and charters to offer all-day kindergarten, launch summer reading programs, hire staff or provide busing for students. “There is no one solution. … My one thing is to give them the resources to get there.”
  • As the grandfather of kids who have attended pre-K, Little said it would be “hypocritical” for him to oppose early education. But he said his focus is boosting funding for kindergarten through third grade, critical years for early readers. “I’ve got to get done what I can get done. … I’m just trying not to bite off too much right now.”
  • Little said he hopes his spending “reset” is a one-time event. He ordered most state agencies to cut budgets by 1 percent this year and 2 percent next year, although K-12 was spared from the cuts. Little said he was forced to cut spending in the face of declining state revenues, which he hopes was a one-time glitch triggered by the federal tax cuts of 2017. The 2018 Legislature complied with the federal tax cuts and passed state tax cuts of its own.
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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