Idaho governor doubles down on education in budget proposal

POST FALLS, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little is doubling down on education in this year’s budget proposal. He is proposing an 11-percent increase in 2022, which is $300 million more than last year.

The governor discussed his budget with reporters on Friday morning in Post Falls. Education is at the forefront of his plan, especially now because of the effects the pandemic has had on teaching. du

“We need a higher graduation rate and we know that we got a lot of kids behind in literacy, math, fill in the blank,” the governor said. “We will have increased 500-percent what we put into the literacy whether that’s kindergarten, whether that’s reading coaches, whether it’s changing the student-teacher ratio.”

School districts will have the freedom to decide how the literacy money should be spent. However, the governor says some will have to go to catch up with the learning loss.

“Because of the pandemic, because so many kids were out of school we’re going to put more money into the fourth grade,” the governor explained. “So, we got an extra year to help those kids who were behind get caught up and that’s why that huge investment.”

He also wants to provide better pay for teachers and affordable healthcare.

The budget is big, but the state has extra money. Idaho’s economy boomed last year, bringing in 23-percent revenue than anticipated. The surplus cash will be divided by lawmakers over the next several months after the budget is approved. Gov. Little says it gives the state an opportunity to not only stock away for a rainy day fund, but invest. He says you could see some benefits soon.

“Your local highway districts, your county, your city accelerating road maintenance and expansion,” the governor said.

With more people moving in, Idahoans are getting squeezed out. Gov. Little plans to build more infrastructure — water, sewer, roads and more to make room.

“We’re gonna put $50 million into basically a place where financing is tough so people that want to build affordable housing can build more of it,” he said.

The governor says he also budgeted for nurses and physicians. He set aside $900,000 for 15 new medical residents to address the doctor shortage. Postsecondary nursing programs at colleges like North Idaho College could see $1 million to hire more faculty to develop programs and increase the capacity so more nurses can graduate.

The budget is not set in stone. Legislators still need to go through it, make any changes and vote on it.

RELATED: Idaho governor touts big education spending boost, tax cuts

READ: Record Idaho tax cut clears panel, heads to House for vote