BOISE, Idaho — Our State's governor is on a mission, and Brad Little is starting by focusing on ABC's.
6 On Your Side's Michelle Edmonds sat down exclusively with the governor for his first one-on-one television interview since taking office.
He wants education to be the top priority for every citizen. Ask him why and his answer is simple: it's the right thing to do.
It's not everyday the governor visits your school, but just weeks into office, Brad Little wanted to see for himself how he could help Idaho's youngest students succeed.
During the exclusive interview, Idaho's new leader didn't hesitate about his number one goal.
"I want our reading scores to go up," Little said. "I want parents to know that if they enroll their kids we will have them reading proficiently by the end of the third grade."
Right now, only 52 percent of the state's kindergarten through third-graders are reading at grade level.
The governor says it's not only his constitutional, but moral obligation to change that statistic.
"Right now where the state is, it's our biggest limiting factor," Little said. "It's our limiting factor in economic development, in quality of life in a lot of these social issues we have: corrections, substance abuse, mental health. These educators tell you, you get these kids reading proficiently by the end of the third grade and a lot of these problems that happen not only in school but in society are significantly reduced."
Little is pushing the legislature to double the funding for reading programs. If passed, the literacy initiative would pump 26 million dollars into school districts, giving local administrators control over how the dollars are spent.
At Chief Joseph Elementary in Meridian, the principal, Gretchen Hart, used her literacy funding to offer nine at-risk students intervention in an all day kindergarten. Mrs. Hart says more money would allow her to start other full day kindergarten classes.
"We had families who wanted to be part of this all day program that we had to say sorry we don't have space for you," said Hart.
During our tour, the governor told us he supports full day kindergarten, but Little says the key to better education is more than just money. In fact, it's something perhaps even harder to change: perception.
"If Idaho is going to advance, not only in the classroom but out on the streets and in the playgrounds in the workplaces, telling your child your neighbor whatever it is: are you doing your homework? The necessity of having a good education is part of what we are going to do to in Idaho advance the ball for everybody," Little said. "Everybody having a good education is in everybody's best interest."
From asking for more funding, to starting a new education task force and even adding a children's cabinet to his administration, the new governor is not wasting a moment.
After a morning of visiting classrooms, there's no doubt, governor little is passionate about supporting the next generation of Idahoans.
This past week legislative budget writers unanimously passed Little's literacy initiative. The increase in funding now moves on to the full house and senate.