Sliding Money Away From Idaho Teachers, Toward Facilities 

The governor's idea of "significant" was a 2.9 percent increase--or a $37.4 million bump--for public education, a far cry from the nearly $100 million spending gap, which continued to widen through the recession.

Scant seconds after Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter delivered his Jan. 6 State of the State Address, Idaho House Speaker Scott Bedke, standing one tier above Otter's podium, thanked the governor for what he called a "general blueprint."

Blueprint or wish list, Otter knew full well that the 105 men and women sitting before him would have the final say on a spending plan for schools, prisons and social services.

Otter rushed through his instantly forgettable State of the State as if he hadn't prepared, let alone seen the speech before delivering it to a statewide audience. His performance, filled with flubbing some words and missing others entirely, wasn't characteristic of Idaho's most charismatic leader.

Even when he invoked Obamacare, wolves and fiscal restraint--issues that previously would have inspired fiery rhetoric, Otter spoke as if he had somewhere else he needed to be.

Otter spent the lion's share of his time talking about education, saying that he wanted to make "a significant start ... to restore funding to public schools."

But the governor's idea of "significant" was a 2.9 percent increase--or a $37.4 million bump--for public education, a far cry from the nearly $100 million spending gap, which continued to widen through the recession. In fact, recommendations from the governor's own task force, which he said he "enthusiastically endorsed" during his address, recommends $350 million in improvements, meaning Otter's blueprint would take nearly a decade to achieve, not the five-year plan he trumpeted during his speech.

Additionally, Otter's proposed public education budget would slide $21 million away from teacher bonuses and development.

"The governor has missed the mark in not providing tangible recognition for teachers," said Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association. "Facilities and technology are important tools, but they are of minimal value without qualified people to use them."

Even Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna--who got a shout-out from Otter during the State of the State--wasn't too pleased with what he was hearing.

"We can't reduce teacher compensation in order to keep the lights on," Luna told reporters after the address.

Luna, like Otter, faces re-election later this year. In his State of the State, Otter said he was courting support for his "key proposals in the coming year and beyond."

But voters will have the final say on that "beyond" part.

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