The recommendations from Gov. Brad Little’s K-12 task force are now down in writing.
The “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force issued its final report Friday — formally presenting five recommendations that grew from 28 meetings over five months.
“While not exhaustive, this report and recommendations display the perspectives and good faith efforts of many different stakeholders working together on behalf of all Idaho students,” the group said in its 12-page report. “It is a strategic blueprint for the next five years to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for students across Idaho.”
The recommendations themselves are no surprise. The 26-member task force endorsed the list in early November — although not unanimously. Significantly, several Republican legislators on the task force abstained from votes, or outright opposed some recommendations.
And the report comes less than one month before the start of the 2020 legislative session, when lawmakers could be asked to vote on some or all of these recommendations.
In a news release, Little said the task force work will “form the basis of my education budget and policy recommendations for the 2020 legislative session and beyond.”
Here’s a recap of the five recommendations, with talking points from the task force report:
School accountability. The task force wants to use Idaho Reading Indicator scores as a method of grading schools and administrators. The idea is to compare schools with similar demographics. “Using similar cohorts of students, for comparison purposes, allows parents, education stakeholders, and state policymakers to compare the success of our schools and measure continuous improvement in a fair and unbiased manner.”
Expansion of all-day kindergarten, something which is already occurring. Schools are using the state’s $26 million-a-year literacy program and other funding sources to make the move. “With the current state support, many districts are only able to provide opportunities for all-day kindergarten by cobbling together funds from multiple sources or limiting the students who can participate. The lack of uniformity across the state creates a discrepancy in opportunities available to students based on geography.”
Boosting teacher salaries, by adding a top-end $60,000 rung to the teacher career ladder. The salary plan now maxes out at $50,000. “Building out the career ladder helps level the playing field for rural school districts or districts not able to pass supplemental levies so that they can increase salaries to more competitive levels, narrow the salary gaps between districts, and reduce the burden on local property taxpayers.”
Addressing student social and emotional needs, by training school staff to identify and help students with trauma or mental health issues. “Students learn best when they feel they are in a safe and secure environment. Additionally, our educators and staff need support to minimize burn out and improve their effectiveness in serving these students.”
Giving schools more spending flexibility, by eliminating some state budget line items. “Collapsing line items that are not identified as strategically aligned or having a systemwide benefit in the public schools budget, which will provide more financial flexibility for local school districts and charter schools.”