Governor Brad Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force issued its final report earlier this month.

The task force has presented five recommendations that were the result of 28 different meetings over a span of five months.

In a news release Gov. Little stated that the work done by the task force will form the basis for his education spending budget and policy recommendations for the 2020 legislative session and beyond.

The report was released right before the start of the 2020 legislative session where lawmakers will have the opportunity to vote on some if not all of the recommendations.

St. Maries resident Jody Hendrickx, who served on one of the committees of the task force, says that the final recommendations has potential to affect K-12 schooling across the state. He said that one of the recommendations he definitely supports is the expansion of all-day kindergarten.

“We really tried to focus on having full day kindergarten,” Mr. Hendrickx said. “To me that is the foundation for your education and it is where everyone starts at.”

He said that the short days stunt progress as students move into first grade and beyond.

“I discussed with a few teachers in the district some problems with the half days,” Mr. Hendrickx said. “Kindergarten teachers go through the year gearing up their students for the first grade, with the half days they don’t get as much accomplished and some of them say that over the summer a lot of students lose what they have learned. They end up having to use the first part of first grade getting caught back up.”

He said that what actually gets funding and focus now depends on the legislature, and he said that he hopes all the recommendations are brought forward, but there is only so much funding to go around.

“Things are changing so quickly in the education system,” Mr. Hendrickx said. “We need to get the basics down.”

The five recommendations are as follows:

School accountability is the first recommendation that will be viewed by legislators. The task force is wanting to use Idaho Reading Indicator scores as a way of grading schools and administrators. They want to use the scores as a way to compare schools with similar demographics.

The next is what Mr. Hendrickx had mentioned, the expansion of all day kindergarten. The idea is for schools to use the state’s $26 million-a-year literacy program and other funding sources to make the move to all day kindergarten.

“Kindergarten through third grade is crucial for installing the basics, that is where most education is built upon,” Mr. Hendrickx said.

The next recommendation is boosting teacher salaries by adding a top-end $60,000 to the teacher career ladder.

The task force also wants to address the emotional and social needs of students. The recommendation suggests training staff to identify students who are dealing with trauma or have mental health issues.

Finally, the task force wants to give school more flexibility with spending. A report states that this can be accomplished by eliminating state budget line items.

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