Ed and Ec: Study merges education, economy

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COEUR d’ALENE — The great education survey is heading this way.

The comprehensive study of what citizens think about the state of Idaho education, financed and conducted by HP with help from Idaho Business for Education, turns its focus to Sandpoint and the greater Coeur d’Alene area next week. Teachers, parents, business people, policymakers, civic leaders and more will be interviewed by an HP team that’s assembling feedback statewide. Results are expected to be announced in mid-June.

“They’re interested in knowing what’s working in education, what’s not working and what we can all do to improve it,” Rod Gramer, president and CEO of Idaho Business for Education, said Tuesday in a meeting with The Press.

Joined by Carolyn Holly, vice president of development for IBE, and Judy Meyer, IBE’s North Idaho region chair, Gramer said the study is going well. He said that in addition to focus groups and the face-to-face interviews that will be done here from April 29 to May 1, educators have opened the doors wide for access and cooperation.

According to Gramer, the state’s teachers union, Idaho Education Association, has offered to help put questionnaires in the hands of some 15,000 teachers. Similar support has come from organizations including the state’s association of school boards, ensuring that those who administer public education have a place at the perspective-sharing table.

“I think that’s a sign the educators trust us,” Gramer said.

The nonprofit IBE’s interest centers on developing a workforce that can meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s employers. That’s why having business people participate in the education study is so important, Meyer said.

“If you want good employees, this project is self-serving,” she said. “It’s a remarkable opportunity.”

Gramer said he believes Gov. Brad Little will embrace the study’s findings. Little is planning to assemble a second K-12 task force to evaluate future school funding, and Gramer said the HP study could help that task force immensely.

“Governor Otter’s first task force came up with 21 recommendations as a five-year ‘blueprint for advancing education,’ and all 21 were adopted,” Gramer said. “Maybe this will help chart the next five-year blueprint.”

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