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.
“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.”