State Board signs off on Otter’s higher ed ‘CEO’ proposal

Gov. Butch Otter’s higher education “CEO” would be the highest-paid position in state government.

And on Thursday afternoon, Otter’s appointees on the State Board of Education voted unanimously to endorse the CEO’s proposal. That vote sets the stage for the proposal to start working its way through the Legislature — starting Monday, when legislative budget-writers get their first look at the idea.

Known as a chief education officer, the new hire would be expected to look for ways to streamline the university system and consolidate administrative work.

Otter wants to put $769,500 into launching the CEO’s office. The bulk of the money, $500,000, would pay for one-time consulting work. The rest would go to the newly hired CEO, who would receive $200,000 plus benefits.

That salary would make the CEO the highest paid employee in state government, not counting university administrators and college coaches. Otter’s staff spent considerable time discussing the salary issue, and looking at similar jobs around the country, said Marilyn Whitney, Otter’s aide on education issues.

State Board members spent a few minutes talking salary before Thursday’s vote. Emma Atchley of Ashton questioned the $200,000 figure, in context of State Board executive director Matt Freeman. (Freeman makes $72.24 per hour, which translates to about $144,000 annually.)

State Board member Andrew Scoggin said the CEO position could be hard to fill, since the state will have to “lure” someone with experience leading organizational change. “It’s a big, big, big job.”

And the CEO’s job carries high expectations, State Board president Linda Clark said. The state wants to save money on university overhead, and plow the savings into academics and student support.

“I don’t think we dare lose sight of that,” Clark said.

Ultimately, Atchley voted for the CEO plan.

The State Board also endorsed two other bills expected to surface this session. The first would put an additional $5 million into Idaho’s $10 million-a-year Opportunity Scholarship program, and possibly launch a scholarship to help adults return to college. The second bill would set guidelines for the state’s fast-growing advanced opportunities program, by defining the college-level classes high school students can take at state expense.


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]

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday