Businesses: Idaho education politics are hurting state

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Political hostility to public education in the Republican-dominated Idaho Legislature is causing some businesses to doubt the wisdom of moving to or expanding in a state that ranks at or near the bottom in what it spends on K-12 students and has one of the nation’s worst graduation rates.

The Legislature also targeted higher education earlier this year when it cut $2.5 million from universities despite a budget surplus.

An influential libertarian group that wants to abolish public education entirely says it will push for a $20 million cut to universities in 2022.

”The message the Legislature is sending to businesses is very discouraging,” said Rod Gramer, president of Idaho Business for Education, an advocacy group. ”I think it’s very harmful to our state. Not just our business community, but for our future as a state and our economy and our quality of life.”

For preschoolers, lawmakers earlier this year rejected a $6 million early childhood learning federal grant from the Trump administration.

One Republican lawmaker said he opposed anything making it easier for mothers to work outside the home.

Those actions have a chilling effect, business leaders say, that raise doubts about whether Idaho can produce a skilled workforce.

It also causes potential employees to question the education opportunities for their children.

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