Author Archives: idahopublicradio2014

Idaho Tax Relief Funds Directed to COVID-19 Response

Governor directs $39.3 million for hospital equipment, supplies

by Logan Finney

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

On Friday, Governor Brad Little announced additional executive measures to assist Idaho’s response to the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Through executive order, he is directing a $39.3 million transfer from the Tax Relief Fund to the Disaster Emergency Account.

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“Specifically, it will allow us to purchase more personal protective equipment [PPE] for first responders and healthcare workers, more test kits to minimize the spread, more lab supplies, and hospital beds to boost critical care capacity,” Little said in his Friday press conference. He also said the funds would be used to support temporary care facilities and essential services like childcare, food, and hygiene.

“We do anticipate that under the CARES Act, the federal funding will cover some of these expenses, but this action is intended to ensure Idaho does not have to wait for critical supplies,” the governor said.

Idaho statute gives the governor broad authority to direct money from the general fund and other state funds into the disaster emergency account during a declared emergency.

What is the Tax Relief Fund?

The Legislature created the tax relief fund in 2014 as a place for sales taxes collected and paid by retailers who weren’t necessarily required to do so. Idaho lawmakers had discussed collecting taxes on internet sales since the mid-2000s, but precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court at the time said that retailers only had to collect sales tax if the business had a physical presence in the state.

During that time, Idahoans were supposed to be self-reporting tax-free purchases they made online or out-of-state and paying a “use tax” on those items. However, NPR reported, only 1.36 percent of Idaho taxpayers paid their use tax in 2012. This was also the case in most of the country, as states sought to make online retailers collect and pay sales taxes directly.

In the 2018 session, Idaho finally passed a law to collect sales taxes from online retailers with an in-state affiliate, satisfying the “physical presence” rule. In June 2018, however, the Supreme Court overturned that requirement in a 5-4 ruling, opening the door to direct sales taxes for online purchases.

In the majority opinion for South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc., Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the physical presence rule had become “a judicially created tax shelter for businesses that decide to limit their physical presence and still sell their goods and services to a state’s consumers—something that has become easier and more prevalent as technology has advanced.”

The Legislature responded to that court decision last year, passing a law to collect sales and use tax from online sellers who do more than $100,000 of business in the state per year.

“It will be collected by the seller, instead of our citizens having to report it on their income tax returns on their use tax,” Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said when he sponsored the bill in 2019. “This is not a new tax — it’s a tax that was always due and a change in the method in which it’s collected.”

The 2019 internet sales tax bill directed that new revenue directly into the tax relief fund, rather than sending it through the traditional sales tax distribution formula. That lengthy formula sends amounts to various state funds, shares a portion of the revenue with counties and cities, and then deposits the remainder in the state general fund.

The bill was amended to put a five-year limit on that practice, beginning to direct online sales taxes through the regular formula in 2024. However, after distribution, the remainder will still be deposited into the tax relief fund, rather than the general fund.

The Tax Relief Fund is projected to total around $80 million at the end of the year.

What relief has the Tax Relief Fund provided?

In his January budget recommendation, the governor suggested using $35 million from the fund for grocery tax relief, leaving the details up to lawmakers. House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, introduced legislation to use those funds to increase the annual grocery tax credit.

Idaho citizens qualify for $100 grocery credit—$120 for those age 65 or older— when they file a state tax return. Bedke’s proposal would have increased that credit to $135 for all age groups.

“In the past, the mentality was we only had a limited amount of money,” Bedke told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee on January 22. “We bumped the amount for seniors up, knowing that we would come back later to negate the effects of sales tax on food for all citizens.”

That proposal saw some pushback from members like Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, who introduced her own bill which she described as mimicking the grocery tax repeal that passed the Legislature in 2017 but was vetoed by then-Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

The tax committee sent House Bill 494—the final draft of Bedke’s tax credit increase—to the full House mid-February. From there, however, the final floor vote was delayed several times.

Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, asked the House for consent to hold HB 494 on its calendar ten times over the session, until eventually, the Senate adjourned sine die (without a return date) on March 19. Without the opportunity for a bill to pass through the other chamber, grocery tax reform in the House effectively ended for the year.

The final week of the session, Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks, R-Nampa, put forward a bill to utilize the fund for property tax relief. His bill would have paid out the full balance in the fund to homeowners—by his calculations, a check of about $180 per household.

Democratic lawmakers pointed to internet sales taxes several times during the session as a component of their property tax relief slate. They argued that rather than directing online sales tax revenue into a relief fund until the Legislature decides what to do with it, all sales tax revenue should be sent through the distribution formula to cities and counties.

“Brick and mortar sales in this state are diminishing, and they’re moving to online sales,” House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said in a February press conference. “The pot of money that’s available to fund local government and to fund state needs is shrinking, while the pot of money that has been cordoned off and has been rendered totally unavailable to local governments is growing.”

No bills utilizing the tax relief fund passed into law this session, leaving it intact until Little’s $39.3 million appropriation by executive order for coronavirus response.

Where are we now?

The steep economic drop off caused by the pandemic response is expected to limit state revenue collected by the end of the fiscal year in June, both in sales taxes and in income taxes. The governor’s second executive order directs state agencies to hold back one percent of non-coronavirus spending for the year, which his office expects to save about $40 million.

“Although the state budget will take a hit from the disruption in our economy in recent weeks, I want to assure Idahoans we have a plan to ensure governmental services will continue,” Little said Friday. “We will meet our constitutional requirement for a balanced state budget without having to raise taxes.”

Idaho has extended the state tax filing deadline to June 15, while the federal deadline has been extended to July 15.

Little also announced temporary changes to the unemployment system Friday, extending deadlines and making it easier for an employee to qualify as job-attached if they have been laid off due to coronavirus circumstances. The Department of Labor has more coronavirus unemployment details at labor.idaho.gov.

Posted March 30, 2020

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Timber sales: essential service during #COVID19 outbreak

The Idaho Department of Lands is moving forward with forest management during the COVID-19 crisis, not only to ensure necessary products get to consumers, but to keep forests healthy through sustainable forest practices — that’s according to State Forester Craig Foss.

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(Photo courtesy Idaho Department of Lands)

“Our practices of planting, taking care of our young and aging forests, and harvesting when the time is right, allows us to provide a renewable resource while keeping forests growing strong for future generations,” Foss said in a news release today.

The bottom line: IDL says toilet paper and other important forest products will continue to roll out of Idaho.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified “Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products as critical during the COVID-19 response.”

IDL says forest management operations are taking place while still following Governor Brad Little’s stay-home guidelines, as well as social-distancing practices.

“My priority is to keep our staff as healthy as possible and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during this time, while still continuing to provide these critical services,” Idaho Department of Lands Director Dustin Miller said. “Our foresters work in remote areas already, but we will be disinfecting work vehicles, practicing social-distancing and other important guidelines.”

IDL says its foresters and contractors will move forward with seedling planting operations in the coming weeks while practicing social-distancing policies. More than 1.6 million seedlings were planted last year on endowment lands and this year’s number is 1.9 million.

The Idaho Department of Lands manages about a million acres of forests growing on Idaho Endowment Lands. The agency says that in fiscal year 2019, $1.3 billion in services and goods (including Idaho-produced toilet paper) were generated from timber harvests on endowment land. Timber sales generated $77 million in revenue, supported more than 6,600 jobs, and more than $270 million in wages.

Posted March 30, 2020

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Guest Opinion: Idaho schools adapting quickly to meet student needs

By Sherri Ybarra
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction

March 26, 2020
For Idaho educators, as for all Idahoans, this rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic has been a time of quick study and rapid response, with unprecedented challenges from all directions.

School leaders and teachers are suddenly being confronted with what it looks like to provide vital instruction and services while physical classrooms are closed and we are learning the new norms of social interaction.

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(State of Idaho photo)

Families and students throughout Idaho are counting on our education system to continue making sure kids have essential services, such as nutritious meals and meaningful instruction vital to their safety and well-being, despite being cut off from virtually all of their customary interactions.

It’s a tall order, and it’s a work in progress. But it is made so much easier by the willingness, energy and innovation of our educators and education partners throughout the state who are working long, hard and smart.

As Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am tremendously impressed and encouraged by the skill, creativity, collaboration and commitment of school administrators, teachers and support staff as we strive to make this strange temporary reality as workable and “normal” as possible.

Twice a week, school leaders join me and my department heads in webinars to share the latest developments and answer questions online in real time from across the state, covering everything from school finance to assessments, distance learning to driver’s education. My directors of Child Nutrition Programs and Special Education also hold frequent webinars to help schools and districts navigate the requirements and challenges of offering nourishing meals to children and providing individualized education plans for students with disabilities.

Those are just two examples of the countless interactions between State Department of Education staff and districts and schools throughout Idaho as we provide essential services to Idaho’s students and families.

As a member of the Governor’s Coronavirus Working Group, I am working closely with Gov. Brad Little and other state agencies, including the Department of Health and Welfare. I can attest to the comprehensive efforts taking place to support all Idahoans through this difficult time.

My staff and I are in near-constant contact with the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies to navigate this new terrain without jeopardizing funding or accountability. I’ve been encouraged by the responsiveness of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education. Just this week, our request for a statewide waiver for standardized testing was granted in less than 24 hours, and I spoke to Secretary DeVos twice this week to discuss Idaho’s needs.

We are continuing to work with our federal partners and through the Idaho State Board of Education to eliminate or ease regulations and requirements that could hamstring school operations in this time of emergency. Our pledge to Idaho districts, schools, students and families is to provide maximum flexibility to meet their unique needs and challenges as we work our way through this unprecedented situation together.

The governor’s coronavirus website is an excellent source of information on this pandemic and its impact on Idaho. The State Department of Education maintains a Resources for Schools page on that website, and we work hard to keep it current and useful, adding and updating information multiple times per day.

As this challenging situation continues to evolve, none of us knows what may develop or when. But we know that Idahoans are resilient and that we have top-notch state and local leaders dedicated to ensuring that we come out of this stronger and better able to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.

State of Idaho coronavirus information site:

https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/

Resources for schools:

https://coronavirus.idaho.gov/resources-for-schools/

Posted March 30, 2020

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Idaho Legislative Roundup

Idaho Governor Brad Little has, at this writing, vetoed three bills passed by state lawmakers during the 2020 Idaho legislative session.

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(A look outside the Idaho Senate as the legislative session was winding down. The Senate adjourned on March 19, the House on March 20. Photo by Miranda Collins)

HB 487a, the pesticide spraying bill, has been vetoed. In his transmittal letter, Little wrote, “I did so reluctantly because I share the intent of the legislation in ensuring negotiated rulemaking for rules whenever feasible. The challenge with H 487a is that it mandates negotiated rulemaking, and therefore may preclude temporary rules when necessary.

“For the second straight year, the Legislature has chosen to not reauthorize the fee rules, and as a result, my administration has had to republish rules as temporary to ensure they remain in full force and effect. Thus, the rules promulgated under this statute are currently being republished as temporary rules,” Little wrote.

Governor Little says he believes the intent of H 487a will be carried out through his Executive Order 2020-01, which requires that every rule chapter be promulgated over the next five years. Each agency, he said, will hold at least two public hearings designed “to maximize public participation in the rulemaking process.”

Little has also vetoed H 561a, sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Moyle. According to the legislation’s Statement of Purpose, it “provides that if a property owner has an appraisal or an arm’s length transaction on a property within the previous 12 months, the appraisal or arm’s length transaction shall be considered the market value of that property for assessment purposes.”

In his veto message, Little wrote, “Tax policy should be fair, simple and predictable. This legislation if passed has the potential to result in unintended tax shifts as well as a lack of uniformity in the process of property tax assessment. It is for these reasons that I’m choosing to veto this legislation.”

Governor Little has also vetoed H 325, to transfer an estimated $18 million to the Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation Fund, over economic concerns due to #COVID19.

In his veto message, Little wrote, “The maintenance and growth of our transportation infrastructure remains a vital commitment of the State of Idaho, and I encourage the Idaho State Legislature to pursue a comprehensive package when the state is facing a more positive economic outlook.”

Still to come in the week ahead are Governor Little’s decisions on some hotly debated bills passed by lawmakers this year, including one restricting transgender athletes from participating in women’s and girls’ sports and another prohibiting transgender people from making gender changes on their birth certificates.

Governor Little has signed over 200 bills into law, including the many appropriations bills passed by lawmakers.

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We leave you with this note from the Idaho State Legislature’s web site:

In light of the current national and state declarations of emergency and to protect the health and safety of our staff and the public, beginning March 20, 2020, many Legislative Services Office staff will be working remotely. If you need to contact a staff member or have a question regarding the Idaho Legislature, please call 208-334-2475.

Posted March 29, 2020

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Little signs new actions on coronavirus response

Idaho Governor Brad Little announced a series of actions Friday that he says will “further position the State of Idaho and its citizens to overcome this challenge we’re facing” from the coronavirus public health emergency.

Little has ordered a 1% holdback in state agency spending because of the economic downturn; the move will save about $40 million statewide. The cut does not apply to healthcare workers.

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(Idaho Governor Brad Little speaks at a press conference at the Idaho State Capitol’s Lincoln Auditorium on March 27, 2020. Screen grab, Idaho Public Television Facebook)

“The coronavirus situation has not only affected our daily lives and personal finances but the state’s finances as well,” Little said. “While the impact of the pandemic on state revenue collection is yet unknown, it is going to have a significant impact and we must do everything we can to ensure the state is positioned for long-term success.”

Little also announced he is signing an executive order to direct the transfer of $39.3 million from the state’s tax relief fund to the disaster emergency account, the maximum amount allowed under the law.

“I want to assure Idahoans that, although the state budget will be impacted, we have a plan to meet our constitutional requirement for a balanced state budget without having to raise taxes,” Little said.

Governor Little says his latest executive orders and proclamation will boost funds available for Idaho’s coronavirus response, manage the impact of the crisis on the state budget, and help the thousands of Idahoans suddenly unemployed due to the 2019 novel coronavirus.

“The number of unemployed in Idaho jumped 1,200-percent in a matter of days,” Little said. “These actions help people get the financial help they need as quickly as possible and provide more flexibility for businesses impacted by the sudden change in our economy in recent weeks.”

Governor Little also signed a proclamation to help Idahoans who are temporarily unable to work through no fault of their own because of illness, quarantines, layoff or reduction of work related to coronavirus.

The proclamation:

  • Waives the one-week waiting period for all applicants who are otherwise eligible.
  • Makes it easier for claimants to be considered as job-attached if they have been laid off due to COVID-19 related reasons. An employer must provide reasonable assurance of a return to work and the claimant must be able and available for suitable work.
  • Considers claimants have met the available-for-work criteria if they are isolated and unavailable to work at the request of a medical professional, their employer, or their local health district and they will be returning to their employer.
  • Provides parties an additional 14 days to appeal claims decisions beyond the normal 14 days.
  • Businesses that pay a quarterly unemployment tax will not be charged when employees are laid off due to coronavirus.
  • Parties will be given an additional 14 days to appeal claims decisions beyond the normal 14 days.

“Our goal is to keep people working, ” Little said.

The Idaho Department of Labor announced Thursday that 13,341 new claims were filed for unemployment insurance benefits from Idaho workers laid off due to the coronavirus. That was up 12,310 from the previous week, an increase of 1,200%.

The state agency is asking the public to be patient when calling; wait times have been long at times and more people are being hired to meet the need and the demand.

Governor Little anticipates the state’s share of the federal coronavirus relief package to be at least $1.25 billion, and that the aid will include targeted support such as direct payments to Idahoans; lending funds for businesses; and an education stabilization fund for school districts and colleges.

The U.S. House passed the measure today; the Senate passed it earlier this week.

“I am sure everyone saw the news yesterday that Idaho had its first deaths resulting from coronavirus,” Little said. “Our prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who passed. This is a sad reminder that coronavirus can be extremely harmful or deadly to many, and we all must take personal responsibility and do everything we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus to others. Most importantly, people must stay home as much as possible for the next three weeks.”

Posted March 27, 2020

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Little issues ‘Stay-Home’ order for Idaho

Idaho Governor Brad Little issued a 21 day, statewide stay-home order today for all of Idaho.

“From the get-go, our focus has been to slow the spread of coronavirus to protect our most vulnerable citizens and preserve capacity in our healthcare system,” Governor Little said. “And from the beginning, I stated my commitment to making decisions about our response to coronavirus based on science. With confirmed community transmission of coronavirus now occurring in Idaho’s most populated areas, we need to take strong measures to ensure our healthcare facilities are not overburdened. I am following the guidance of our public health experts and issuing a statewide stay-home order effective immediately.”

The statewide stay-home order is effective immediately.

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Governor Little also signed an extreme emergency declaration, which his office says “will allow the state to more effectively increase health care capacity, take steps to reduce and slow coronavirus spread, and take rapid and decisive steps to improve the condition of Idahoans whose job and incomes are being harmed by the pandemic.”

At a press conference today at Gowen Field, Little said:

  • The stay-home order requires citizens to self-isolate at home if you can, not just if you are sick. This excludes healthcare, public safety and other essential workers as defined in the order.
  • If you are high-risk, avoid leaving home. People can leave home to obtain or provide essential services as defined in the order.
  • Employers that do not provide essential services as defined in order must take all steps necessary for employees to work remotely from home.
  • Grocery stores, medical facilities, and other essential businesses as defined in the order will remain open. Restaurants across the state are being ordered to close dine-in but drive-thru, pick up, and delivery will still be available.
  • Non-essential businesses and services will close their physical locations. This includes bars, nightclubs, gyms, recreational facilities, entertainment venues, convention centers, hair and nail salons, and others not included in the “essential” category as defined in the order.
  • People must limit public transit unless to provide or obtain essential services.
  • People must limit all discretionary travel. People must limit all non-essential gatherings of any number of individuals outside the household.
  • When you go for a walk, run, bike ride, or other outdoor recreation near your home, stay 6-feet away from individuals who are not part of your household.

“Our healthcare and public safety workers are putting themselves in harm’s way to respond to the coronavirus emergency, and we owe it to them to do our part by following this statewide stay-home order,” Governor Little added.

Governor Little and public health officials will evaluate at a later time whether to extend the order past 21 days.

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(State of Idaho graphic)

Governor Little visited today with the Idaho National Guard personnel he recently mobilized to support civil authorities and local jurisdictions during the coronavirus emergency.

The Guard is prepared to provide mobile testing support, transport commodities, provide facilities, tents or other equipment, and perform other duties as needed in Idaho’s response to the coronavirus health emergency.

The Idaho Office of Emergency Management, a part of the Idaho Military Division, is the emergency response planner and coordinator for interagency preparedness in Idaho.

“We will get through this together as long as we all play an active part in fighting the spread of coronavirus. I am proud of Idaho and the way we support and love our neighbors. Let’s keep it up,” Governor Little said.

Posted March 25, 2020

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From Ranch to the Statehouse

Idaho Governor Brad Little talks about the importance of higher education

by Madison Hardy

Idaho Public Radio State Capitol Bureau

UI McClure Center

Idaho native Bradley Jay Little, better known as Governor Brad Little, has watched the gem state tackle change and growth since the late 1950s.

A graduate of the University of Idaho, Little is a proud member of the Vandal Family. He says both of his parents, sister, brother, wife, children, and most of his peers from high school attended the university. If any of his six grandchildren graduate from the U of I they will be sixth-generation Vandals.

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(Idaho Governor Brad Little with reporter Madison Hardy)

Graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness and Animal Science, Little took the less-traditional five-year path after struggling with mono his sophomore year and interning with the state legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

“That was kind of a transformative time when I got sick and was in the hospital,” said Little. “I had dropped classes a couple times and went from being a pretty poor student to being on the dean’s list when I came to the realization that I probably needed to get an education.”

He remembers his years at the University of Idaho fondly, notably the people who supported his growth personally and intellectual growth.

“There were a handful of professors who saw in me something that I didn’t see. That basically made me challenge classes because they knew I was sluffin’,” said Little.

Prior to heading to college, Little says he and most of his classmates spent the majority of their free-time working. Little says the old Emmett Sawmill, now closed, was a major source of employment for Emmettonians.

“[The sawmill] was actually kind of a big thing in my life, all of my high school classmates and some of the kids’ families I went to college with worked for the mill,” said Little. “It was a good union employer, paid great wages, great benefits.”

He, however, spent the majority of his youth on the family ranch. Little says he worked on the ranch since his early childhood, remembering most of his summers tending to the cattle and sheep as early as 11 years old. He said most kids worked back then, the boys would stack hay, irrigate the fields, or play part in the logging industry. Girls would be in the packing sheds harvesting the cherries and fresh fruit Emmet is known for.

“We used to trail all our cattle from Emmett to Cascade so for months I was on a saddle horse,” said Little. “There’s too much traffic on the highways now but we used to take two bunches of cows and two bunches of yearlings and we’d start down in Emmett, gather them up and every day we’d trail them anywhere from eight to 16 miles and get up at daylight and just start out on the road and away we’d go.”

While Little’s hometown of Emmett has nearly doubled since his childhood, the governor sees it as the same small, rural community. Emmett High School, Little’s alma mater, is the only secondary school in Emmett. It currently serves 677 students, including 152 seniors, and boasts higher than a 90% graduation rate.

State leaders and educational administrators have struggled with reaching Idaho’s goals to increase high school graduates to continue their learning into higher education institutions over the last decade. With the ever-changing nature of the world, global and national economy, and competitive labor market it has become imperative to complete some level of post-secondary instruction.

The goal set by the State Board of Education in 2010 was to have 60% of Idahoans aged 25 to 35 to possess some sort of education beyond high school, including two and four-year college degrees and career technical certificates. At that time Idaho sat at 37%, in 2018 the U.S. The Census Bureau reported a jump to 42%.

Idaho’s high school graduation rate has climbed in recent years from 77% in 2014 to 81% in 2018 according to the ISBE, however, this varies based on economic disadvantages, geographic location, ethnicity, and gender. While ISBE reported rural areas in 2018 had a higher rate of high school graduation than schools in cities, suburbs or towns -87 versus 83%, they were on average 6% less likely to enroll in post-secondary institutions -44 versus 50%. The governor says he remembers about 125 to 130 people in his graduating class.

“I know some of my classmates went [to college] for a semester or two and said to heck with this I’m going back to the sawmill. Back then I could make $14 an hour starting out at the sawmill and only work 40 hours a week,” said Little. “You know they had to work hard but that was one

of the reasons a lot of Emmett kids didn’t go on to college. They had those sawmill jobs right there in town.”

High school graduates face various challenges in completing post-secondary education, especially those in rural or high poverty areas. Little estimates that between 20 to 40% of his classmates finished their higher education program.

Many students opt-out for a gap year, religious missions, military service, or are relied on by their family members to support the household income. Especially in rural communities young adults choose to work in family businesses, take care of younger and older families, or be translators for their non-English speaking relatives. For many families, higher education degrees are financially out of reach and inaccessible.

Throughout his tenure, Little has made education his first priority. Primarily focusing on improving literacy rates by third grade, K-12 social and behavioral programs, and improving the state’s post-secondary go-on rates. Especially in rural areas, this is a harder area of change.

“I’ve got to get them going on but they’ve got to be counseled in the K-12 system and they’ve got to be educated where they can go on,” said Little. “So that it’s not a big shock when they have to start thinking a lot more intensively than they do in college.”

High achieving students and those with parents who have successfully completed higher education programs tend to go to college despite external factors. However, those are not the primary focus of Idaho’s educational initiatives. Hispanic, Native American and high poverty areas are.

According to the ISBE, U.S Census Bureau and state achievement assessments Hispanic and Native American students regularly report lower GPA scores. These groups additionally trail behind on SAT and ISAT scores, and because the Hispanic population now makes up 18% of the state’s public K-12 enrollment their academic achievement rates largely affect Idaho statistics.

Little says the low hanging fruit is how Idaho goes about certifying career technical education degrees and trying to include them in the state’s higher education rate. Traditional post-secondary institutions are still imperative to the growth of Idaho’s economy, and represent a major opportunity for citizens and businesses.

“This goes back to the sawmill, those jobs are gone. Mark Brinckmier who owns the biggest and the most modern sawmills in Idaho is talking about having a full roboticized sawmill. My peers, their family, that pulled green chain and grated lumber all those jobs are gone now,” said Little. “For Idaho, particularly rural Idaho to survive, we’re just going to have to have a different skill

set. Some of them can do career technical but somebody has got to design those mills, somebody has got to run those mills, somebody has got to do it.”

Major companies started by Idahoans like Albertsons, Clearwater Analytics, Idaho Power, Micron Technology, Simplot, and Winco are the bread and butter of Idaho’s stock and trade.

“Look at our biggest employer, started by two kids from Blackfoot, Idaho, funded by two potato farmers, a sheep rancher, and a farm equipment distributor. That’s Micron, started by two guys from Blackfoot Idaho, one was a lawyer and one went on to be an electrical engineer,” said Little. “It is really, really essential. Not everybody has to have a four-year degree or an advanced degree, but everyone has got to have a higher skill set.”

Little is hopeful for the future after an influx of turn over in-state board leadership, new presidents at the state’s four major higher education institutions – the University of Idaho, Boise State University, Idaho State University, and Lewis-Clark State College. He expects these administrators will bring a wave of innovation and intuition when crafting an effective plan for Idaho’s children.

In his time as a citizen, lawmaker, and governor, Brad Little has traveled the state countless times. As he looks around he sees huge opportunities and growth for all Idahoans.

“I’m worried about these kids that aren’t in school today, I’m worried about the students at the University of Idaho that aren’t there today,” said Little. “All over the state we have got to have higher attainment and more adaptive skills, I still have faith in the entrepreneurialism in Idaho they’ll figure it out but I’ve got to get them educated.”

Posted March 24, 2020

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