The beginning of the school year reminds Idahoans of the importance of our local schools and our dedicated educators.

I have five grandkids, four of whom began school this past week. Our schools are central to our communities. Their continued success is the foundation for Idaho’s future prosperity.

I am optimistic about the future of Idaho’s education system and our approach to investing in our students and making our schools even better.

Idaho is one of the only states in America where education stakeholders, business leaders, and state policymakers came together to work on a statewide five-year plan for K-12 education. This hard work culminated in a set of 20 recommendations for moving education forward. Recommendations include increasing teacher pay and dedicating more resources to ensure all students can read proficiently by the third grade.

Your elected leaders in the Idaho Legislature have made great strides by enacting major components of these recommendations. Idaho has increased K-12 spending by 32-percent in the past four years with teacher pay steadily increasing and student achievement metrics trending upward.

I’m passionate about fulfilling our constitutional and moral commitment to educate our kids. This five-year plan lays the right groundwork for another initiative to improve education statewide and guarantee all our students have the best possible shot at achieving personal and economic prosperity while remaining in Idaho.

We know that when we have the best teachers in the classrooms we get the best student outcomes. There is still work we must do to recruit and retain the best teachers across Idaho.

Some schools in Idaho’s rural districts find themselves without the teachers they need for essential subjects. We should pursue ideas like creating incentives for our newly graduated educators to teach here in Idaho.  We must continue the momentum on increasing teacher pay, particularly for starting teachers and our experienced veterans, making sure they remain in Idaho’s classrooms rather than moving to other states or changing professions.

Moving forward, we will need to focus on providing more learning opportunities via technology. Every Idaho student, both rural and urban, should have access to the elective, advanced or dual credit classes they need in high school to be competitive at universities and in the workplace.

As I travel around the state, there are terrific examples of great schools, talented educators, and accomplished students. Looking ahead, I’m excited about the future of education in Idaho and its vital role in securing our state’s future success.