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Little touts his support for education during a successful legislative session


RATHDRUM – Gov. Brad Little is pleased with how the 2024 legislative session is going.

“I'm proud to say that this year, with what I proposed to the Idaho Legislature, we literally accomplished about 99% of what we wanted,” Little said at a meeting Wednesday afternoon Meeting with students at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus.

“All I’m suggesting is make it to where you want to stay in Idaho,” Little said to students and instructors gathered in an automotive technology classroom for the news conference.

“You want to stay in your community, you want to stay close to your family, but most importantly you want to have a rewarding career and live comfortably,” he said, “and retire comfortably.”

The governor shared the results of the legislative session and discussed his Idaho Works plan.

Idaho Works includes investments in school facilities, property tax relief, the Idaho LAUNCH program, transportation, water, public safety and health care, while balancing the budget.

Little said Idaho has never been a state that puts money into its schools. However, that is expected to change with House Bill 521, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and by a vote of 23-11 in the Senate. All Kootenai County elected officials voted in favor of the bill.

“This year we set aside $1.5 billion to make available to schools across the state of Idaho,” Little said.

He touted the passage of the School Facilities Act, which will provide funds for construction, maintenance and reduction of operating costs. The Coeur d'Alene School District will receive $39.4 million; the Post Falls School District will receive $24.9 million; and $19.3 million will be awarded to the Lakeland Joint School District.

“This isn’t going to build a high school,” Little said. “But it will reduce the cost of community cohesion.” I believe if we can reduce the cost of this, the trustees and the community will be committed to progress in the future.

“It means that for the first time on a statewide level, the state will be involved in building schools, safer schools and better schools in the future,” Little said.

The governor's Idaho LAUNCH program bill, aimed at strengthening Idaho's workforce, passed narrowly in the House of Representatives – 39 votes in favor to 31 against – and 21 votes to 14 in the Senate. It received no support from Kootenai County elected officials.

LAUNCH rewards high school graduates with up to $8,000 toward tuition and fees over two years to pursue in-demand careers at Idaho institutions. Passage of this legislation means $75 million in grants will be made available to graduates as the program expands.

“I believe we are going to change the course of the entire high school,” Little said.

He said that although no one knows for sure how the economy will perform in the future, Idaho will be strong thanks to the achievements of the past few years.

“If there's a global recession, a national recession or even a regional recession, you're going to be better off in Idaho than anywhere else,” Little said. “We set aside money for a rainy day fund. We don't have any debts. We invested in our roads, our water, our schools, our infrastructure. We have given more money back to our citizens per capita than any other state. We invest in our state's youth so that we have this skilled workforce.

Rhianna Kent, a senior at Coeur d'Alene High School and KTEC certified nursing assistant, was among those who attended the press conference.

“I think it's very important for us to have someone leading the state who understands the youth and the people growing up in this world and what's coming next for them,” she said.

She expressed gratitude for Little's staffing plan and the support Idaho LAUNCH provides.

“As someone who came from a low-income family a long time ago and went through foster care and everything else, I'm really grateful that he's providing opportunities for people who don't have them,” she said.

Her KTEC CNA classmate, Post Falls High School graduate Kenzie Bennett, said she is waiting for her LAUNCH application to be approved.

“I think it's a great program, and for someone whose parents aren't paying for his college, I think it's just great,” she said. “Any money helps.”

Visit gov.idaho.gov for details about Little's Idaho Works plan or visit idaholaunch.com for more information about Idaho LAUNCH.

Students listen as Gov. Brad Little speaks about the progress made with his Idaho Works plan and the Idaho LAUNCH program during a press conference Wednesday at KTEC.
Gov. Brad Little asks for a show of hands Wednesday as he speaks to students at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus about passing legislation supporting the Idaho LAUNCH program and the Idaho Works plan.
From left, KTEC certified nursing assistant students Kenzie Bennett, Emalie Hardaway and Rhianna Kent chat with Gov. Brad Little before a news conference Wednesday.
Idaho Gov. Brad Little, center, is surrounded by students at the Kootenai Technical Education Campus on Wednesday after sharing details of the now-adjourned 2024 legislative session. Little's education plans include supporting high school graduates entering in-demand fields and investing in school facilities.

Anna Harden

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