With the sun shining and the legislative session in the rearview mirror, Gov. Brad Little said Wednesday that he is proud of what he accomplished during his first 100 days in office.
“Two words come to mind for me when people ask me about it and that’s fast and rewarding,” Little said. “It doesn’t seem like it’s been 100 days because we’ve been quite busy.”
During a 30 minute press briefing, Little reflected back on some of the themes and goals from his State of the State address.
As for accomplishments, Little didn’t waste any time highlighting the implementation of his education agenda.
Little pointed to the passage of House Bill 153, which will raise minimum teacher pay from the current level of $35,800 to $40,000 by the 2020-21 school year. He also touted his work with the Legislature to double the investment in Idaho’s K-3 literacy initiative by investing $13 million in new funding.
Finally, Little highlighted the state’s investment and expansion of the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship, a popular merit- and needs-based scholarship. This year there was a waiting list of approximately 3,400 students who met the scholarship’s qualifications but did not receive a scholarship because of a lack of funding. Little and the Legislature approved a $7 million funding increase this year, which could pay for 2,000 new scholarships.
When you combine the Opportunity Scholarship with the state’s dual credit program, Little said a lot of students will have up to four semesters of higher education paid for on the state’s dime, before they ever get to college. Then, those who receive the Opportunity Scholarship can use it to help pay for college.
“When we talk about higher education, the Opportunity Scholarship was a big win for the students of Idaho,” Little said.
A significant portion of the questions during Little’s press conference addressed the Legislature’s handling of non-education issues, including Medicaid expansion and a pair of ballot initiative bills Little vetoed.
However, Little returned to quality of life and education issues time and again.
“When I talk about what my goal and what my vision was for the state of Idaho about having the best opportunity for us and for our kids and grandkids to stay here, I’ve very satisfied” Little said. “Obviously education was a big part of what I talked about early on, what I talked about from the very get-go.”
The Legislature created a lot of uncertainty over the future of agency rules when it adjourned the session last week. Find out how Little and his staff plan to address the issue.