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Viewpoint: The big priorities, challenges and issues for Idaho public schools

New State Superintendent Debbie Critchfield discusses teacher shortage and pay, literacy, school choice and more.

BOISE, Idaho — A recent survey by the Boise State University School of Public Policy found that Idahoans believe education is the top legislative priority of 2023. In fact, 72% of those surveyed ranked education at the top of the list.

Governor Brad Little has long said his top priority is education. He wants the legislature to invest $410 million of budget surplus money in teacher and classified staff pay raises, discretionary funding for school districts to defray property taxes, and scholarships for qualifying Idaho high school seniors to pursue higher education at an Idaho university, community college, career technical school or workforce training program.

New Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield says the budget request she presented to the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee falls closely in line with the governor's request.

During the taping of this week's Viewpoint she laid out her priorities, including literacy, math and career technical education, and what she sees as the biggest challenges facing public schools.

 Here is an excerpt from the interview.

Supt. Debbie Critchfield: We hear a lot in our classrooms on behavioral health, how our teachers appropriately use the role they have in our schools to deal with many of the impacts of just all sorts of issues coming into the classroom that, frankly, can impact academic success and learning. School safety, I think, is another issue that we hear a lot about. And the workforce shortage.

Doug Petcash: How bad is the teacher shortage right now?

Debbie Critchfield: Well, it really depends on where you are. So the teacher shortage is something that is a factor everywhere, but when you get outside of our more urban areas it really becomes a critical matter. (9:36:37) We used to talk that it's hard to hire a science teacher or a math teacher. For many of our districts they aren't hiring a PE teacher. And I'm not diminishing what our PE teachers do, but it's not just limited to one subject, it's across the board; hiring para-educators, bus drivers, our lunch folks that work in our cafeterias. Across the board these are real needs.

Superintendent Critchfield said she supports raises for all teachers and support staff. She also explained her stance on what school choice means in Idaho, and whether parents should be able to use public tax money to send their kids to private schools.

Viewpoint airs Sunday mornings at 9 o'clock on KTVB Idaho's NewsChannel 7.

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