Otter: Focus on K-12 ‘results,’ not money

Gov. Butch Otter defended the state’s direction on K-12 — and its funding commitment — in a speech to some 600 Treasure Valley business leaders Tuesday.

Otter chamber
Gov. Butch Otter mingles after his speech to Treasure Valley business leaders.

“I still think we have to look at the results,” Otter said at a Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday. “It’s not how much money you spend, it’s how you spend the money.”

Ten weeks before the Nov. 4 election, Otter did not directly address his re-election campaign — or his Democratic challenger, Boise School Board member A.J. Balukoff.

But Otter’s comments on education funding did touch on a point of contention in the governor’s race. In a fundraising email last week, Balukoff took the state to task for its per-pupil spending, which perennially sits near the bottom of national rankings. The rankings, he said, are “downright shameful.”

On other K-12 issues, Otter broke no new ground.

He said the 2014 Legislature took a “great leap forward” in restoring K-12 funding cut during the Recession. The Legislature restored $35 million in district operational funding — which can be used to cover a host of needs, from health care benefits to transportation and utilities. Operational budgets were cut by $82.5 million during the Recession, but because of growth, it will now take $113 million to replace the money.

Otter also touted his education reform task force, and the 20 recommendations the group made a year ago. Otter said the recommendations are “a big deal,” reflecting consensus on teacher pay, Common Core, technology and other hot-button topics. “This is the first time that we’ve had a five-year plan.”

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