Addressing Idaho’s college, career systems

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As we near the midway point in successfully implementing the 20 recommendations from the 2013 Task Force for Improving Education, it’s time to turn our attention to the postsecondary part of Idaho’s K-through-Career education system.

I believe our success in implementing transformative initiatives in our K-12 education system over the past three years is due largely to the process used by that task force. The group’s diverse makeup, the study of best practices and research, and the robust discussion of potential improvements led to a five-year roadmap for improving student achievement and creating a world-class K-12 education system in Idaho.

That’s why I have again asked the State Board of Education to lead a new task force to develop a five-year plan for higher education in Idaho as we seek to make more rapid progress toward our “Go On” goal of 60 percent of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 attaining a postsecondary degree or certification by 2020. We know that Idaho’s future economic prosperity depends on our ability to develop a more skilled and educated workforce.

The Higher Education Task Force will be comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders including our college and university presidents, representatives from business and industry, legislators and students. Their charge will be to study the state of higher education in Idaho, initiatives already underway and proven practices, and to report findings and recommendations on the strategies that best support postsecondary access and completion. The task force also will consider the state’s role in funding higher education and recommend how to transition to a state-funding formula for higher education that rewards outcomes toward completion.

I am pleased that the task force will be co-chaired by Bob Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics Inc. and chairman of the Idaho Business for Education board of directors, and Dr. Linda Clark, vice president of the State Board of Education. Both were members of the previous task force and have been instrumental in our efforts to implement the five-year plan for K-12 education. I have complete confidence that they will lead this new effort with the same spirit of inclusion, public discourse, and consensus.

“The task force is critical in illuminating a path into the future for the state’s higher education system. Our economy and the fundamental nature of work continue to evolve — and it places unprecedented demands on our postsecondary education institutions,” Lokken said. “We look forward to a diverse task force makeup to help us tackle this work and to align the State’s efforts in a way that is critical to making meaningful progress.”

“I am honored to be asked to serve as the task force co-chair, and i appreciate the governor’s strong commitment to further improving education in Idaho,” Clark said. “Engaging a broad range of stakeholders in this manner will provide important impetus to the work of our higher education institutions in meeting the State Board’s 60 percent goal and ensuring a strong economic future for Idaho.”

“We have all seen the long-term commitment to public elementary and secondary education that has grown from the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education and its recommendations. We are excited at the prospect of developing similarly impactful recommendations to bolster the investment and support needed for our public colleges and universities,” Board of Education President Emma Atchley said. “It is imperative that the State ensures access to high-quality and affordable public postsecondary education for all Idahoans.”

The Legislature’s participation in this endeavor will be invaluable as recommendations are developed and budget impacts are discussed. I appreciate the support of House Speaker Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Hill as we seek to enact policies with significant and lasting benefits for our citizens.

A complete list of task force members will be available in the coming days on my website, https://gov.idaho.gov/.

Our focus must always be on what is best for our students and families and how to achieve our shared goals. I look forward to the report and recommendations of this Task Force, and I thank all those who serve and participate in this important endeavor.

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter can be reached at P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720; by phone at 208-334-2100; or by email at email, www.gov.idaho.gov/ourgov/contact.html.

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