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GOP governor candidates talk education ahead of 2018 race

They are the three high-profile Republican candidates for governor, and Tommy Ahlquist, Raul Labrador and Brad Little all agree on at least one thing: Idaho can do better in public education. (File Photo)

They are the three high-profile Republican candidates for governor, and Tommy Ahlquist, Raul Labrador and Brad Little all agree on at least one thing: Idaho can do better in public education.

"If you look at where we are in college and career readiness, nineteen percent of our kids graduate college and career ready," said Ahlquist, a Boise-area businessman, developer and physician. "We're forty-third in high school graduation. I would say that there is a long, long, long ways for us to go."

"(The public education system) is failing a lot of our children," said U.S. Representative Raul Labrador. "And what we need to worry about is those kids that are failing, why are they failing those children, and what do we need to do to improve the education for those children?"

"Obviously, getting our kids reading proficiently at the end of the third grade," said Lt. Gov. Brad Little, "and we're investing a lot of capital into that area."

Last session, the legislature allocated almost $1.7 billion to pay for K-through-12 public education in Idaho, nearly half the state's general fund budget, according to the Legislative Services Office.

But Ahlquist says too much money is wasted on regulations and mandates that distract from actual learning.

"Every time you give more money to these local school districts, there's more reporting, more mandating, more testing," he said. "We have got to strip that back and clearly define what student achievement is and clearly define how we're going to test out kids."

Labrador also says Idaho should rethink how it spends education dollars.

"Our problem is we're not allocating the resources effectively enough," Labrador said. "Before we start asking for more money for education we need to figure out what we're doing with the money that's currently being spent. Are we really using that money efficiently?"

Little says the answer to that question is yes...as state lawmakers have restored funding lost to schools during the Great Recession.

"We've got a lot of work to do. But when I talk to educators and parents, they like what's taking place in our public schools," Little said. "They're not all doing great but there's a lot of improvement taking place in our education system."

And each of these Republican candidates say they will bring to the governor's office the necessary leadership and experience -- be it in government or the private sector -- to move education forward in Idaho.

KBOI 2 News is committed to keeping you in touch with your elected officials or those running to be your elected officials, so we'll hear more these candidates in the days and weeks ahead.

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