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Businesses: Idaho education politics are hurting state – WTOP

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Political hostility to public education in the Republican-dominated Idaho Legislature is causing some businesses to doubt…

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Political hostility to public education in the Republican-dominated Idaho Legislature is causing some businesses to doubt the wisdom of moving to or expanding in a state that ranks at or near the bottom in what it spends on K-12 students and has one of the nation’s worst graduation rates.

The Legislature also targeted higher education earlier this year when it cut $2.5 million from universities despite a budget surplus. An influential libertarian group that wants to abolish public education entirely says it will push for a $20 million cut to universities in 2022.

”The message the Legislature is sending to businesses is very discouraging,” said Rod Gramer, president of Idaho Business for Education, an advocacy group. ”I think it’s very harmful to our state. Not just our business community, but for our future as a state and our economy and our quality of life.”

For preschoolers, lawmakers earlier this year rejected a $6 million early childhood learning federal grant from the Trump administration. One Republican lawmaker said he opposed anything making it easier for mothers to work outside the home.

Those actions have a chilling effect, business leaders say, that raise doubts about whether Idaho can produce a skilled workforce. It also causes potential employees to question the education opportunities for their children.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences for the 2018-2019 school year said only five states and the District of Columbia had worse high school graduation rates than Idaho’s 81%. The Idaho State Department of Education said the graduation rate rose to 82.1% for 2019-2020, a school year that included the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, and the state eliminated some graduation requirements.

According to the National Education Association, the $7,705 Idaho spent per student in the 2019-2020 school year ranked it last in the nation. The association also estimates the average national classroom teacher salary at $65,000. Idaho ranks 39th with an average salary of just under $53,000 and 35th in average starting salary at $38,000.

Boise-based computer chip maker Micron Technology, one of Idaho’s largest employers, earlier this month announced plans to build a 500-worker, memory design center in Georgia. The company is the nation’s second-largest semi-conductor maker, with product development sites in five other states and eight countries.

Micron Chief People Officer April Arnzen, in a statement to The Associated Press, said the Atlanta Design Center will give it an opportunity to attract technical talent from a large and diverse student population from the area’s strong university presence, which includes Emory University, Georgia Tech, Morehouse College, Spelman College and the University of Georgia.

Micron has significant ties at Boise State University with the Micron College of Business and Economics and the Micron Center for Materials Research. Arnzen said K-12 and higher education are critical components to the company’s success in Idaho.

“A well-funded educational system is essential to maintaining our workforce and necessary for our team members and their families,” …….

Source: https://wtop.com/education/2021/12/businesses-idaho-education-politics-are-hurting-state/

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