Public education has always been important to Shawn Keough, not just on a personal level but during her time serving in the Idaho Senate.
Thursday, Keough was back before her former colleagues — and her replacement, Sen. Jim Woodward — as they met to consider her May 2019 appointment by Idaho Gov. Brad Little to the Idaho State Board of Education.
“Personally — public school provided learning and a sound foundation for me to see and grasp opportunities to be self-sufficient and a productive citizen,” Keough told the board at the confirmation hearing, which she described as “basically an interview.”
As a mother and the wife of a school teacher — her husband, Mike, was a longtime teacher and coach in the Lake Pend Oreille School District as well as the mayor of Kootenai for a time — Keough noted she saw first-hand the role education played. The couple’s two sons not only graduated from Sandpoint High School, they attended two of the state’s universities, Boise State and Idaho.
Keough, executive director of the Associated Logging Contractors in Coeur d’Alene, told the Senate committee that she also sees the importance of education from that perspective as well.
“As a business person, a community member, and former elected official, I see the importance of access and participation in public schools and how doing so can positively impact our employees, our fellow citizens,” she told the committee. “And, as a former budget writer I saw data showing that not receiving an education can negatively impact a person and has a direct correlation to our increasing prison population.”
In his State of the State address, Little emphasized a continued push for education investment in the hopes of raising literacy levels and high scores in Idaho’s schools. In his proposed budget, the governor included $77.7 million for K-12 from the general fund, increasing last year’s education budget by just over 4 percent.
That emphasis on education is something important to her as well, Keough told the senators.
“Gov. Little’s comment in his State of the State speech sums up my philosophy and reason for being willing to serve on the State Board of Education,” she said at the Thursday hearing. “He said: ‘I subscribe to the view that it is better to prepare children today than to repair them later.’”
After her prepared statement, the Senate Education Committee asked Keough several questions regarding the overall direction of Idaho’s public-school system from kindergarten through career. She was also asked about the board’s ability to communicate with parents, teachers, and community members throughout the state and several other questions, Keough said.
The committee is expected to vote on whether to send her confirmation to the Senate floor either this week or next. If the appointment is approved, it would be sent to the entire Senate for a vote.
Keough said her goal, in accepting Little’s appointment, is to support the governor’s efforts to build up Idaho’s education system. As part of that effort, the state aims to have students learn to read at grade level by the third grade and provide teachers with the resources needed to work toward this goal. In addition, Little’s efforts include the retaining and recruiting the best teachers, and, working to try to ensure Idaho’s education system is tooled for today’s world and providing students the education and skills they need to move through life successfully in today’s world and the world of the future.
“These are lofty goals, and really, ongoing, but I look forward to helping to secure or work towards these goals,” Keough said.