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Governor meets with area high school students

by DEVIN WEEKS
Hagadone News Network | February 2, 2024 1:00 AM

POST FALLS — School safety, funding for higher education, doubling the number of school counselors, improving Idaho's public school facilities.

While these are important matters for taxpayers, Gov. Brad Little sat down in a roundtable format Thursday morning at Post Falls High School with those who are impacted by these issues on a daily basis — the students.

"So, what's up?" Little said as he started the conversation with students, counselors, teachers and leaders from Post Falls, Lakeland and Timberlake high schools. "You tell me what's important."

Several of the students have been awarded or are waiting to be awarded funds through Little's Idaho LAUNCH grant program, which, with support from the Idaho Legislature, would use state funds to pay for 80% or up to $8,000 of post-high school training and education over two years for students who pursue in-demand careers in such fields as construction, business, transportation, manufacturing, hospitality, tourism and health care.

Lakeland senior Jack Law, who is pursuing an electrician apprenticeship, said he sees this program as not only supporting those who are interested in those careers, but as a way to attract students to the trades where they might discover their callings.

“It gets them more intrigued,” Jack said.

Little said health care is a No. 1 priority as Idaho needs more nurses.

“We’ve got to have more health care capacity, more nursing slots,” he said. “It’s going to take some bricks and mortar, but what’s really critical is right now, with traveling nurse inflation, to get somebody really good to teach nursing (is) pretty pricey and hard to find.”

Timberlake High School senior Alycia Cameron said she initially wasn't planning to go to college.

"Then I got granted Idaho LAUNCH, and that was my decision maker," she said.

Post Falls Superintendent Dena Naccarato asked Little to share information about plans for school buildings, as that is an important topic this year.

He said the plan is to take ongoing sales tax revenue and dedicate it to the state building authority, which will make the funds available to school districts for new bond measures or to pay down current bonds. He said this iteration, although not yet a final bill, is similar to House Bill 202, which was approved in Idaho the 2023 legislative session to provide tax relief to all property taxpayers.

Post Falls School Board Chair Neil Uhrig asked the governor his stance on school safety and recent legislation, House Bill 415, to arm teachers and school staff. Little said the bill is through the House on its way to the Senate and that some changes will be made to it.

"I am uncomfortable," Little said. "I don't have as big a problem with teachers, I have a bigger problem with anybody with a concealed weapon permit walking in. That gives me pause, and I think it gives pause to some of the Senate members."

Lakeland senior Oliver Everett said it was awesome to have Little visit the area to talk with local students. He said Little was quite personable.

"North Idaho, it feels very underrepresented, so I'm glad that he's making these appearances, like when he spoke at the Lakeland High School graduation four years ago," he said. "I was so appreciative of that."

Carrie Paquette, a college and career adviser for Lakeland, said she knows the LAUNCH program will make monumental differences for the students at her school.

Emma Marshall, a Lakeland senior, plans to use her LAUNCH funds to pursue a teaching career at Lewis-Clark State College.

"Teachers are already underpaid, so to not go into debt after college, this is going to help out so much in the long run," she said.

Annika Brooks, a Post Falls High senior, said it was pretty cool Little came to Post Falls.

"It made it feel like our school is important, like the students voices were heard," she said. 

She said she plans to use LAUNCH funding for a nursing career, and she was glad when the subject of health care came up.

"It was really cool to hear him talking about how the career I want to be in is also a super wanted and valued job," Annika said.

Her classmate, Danny Davoren, said it was important to hear information directly from the governor, rather than hearing it third party or from the internet. He also was awarded a LAUNCH grant that he'll use for chemical engineering.

"We actually got to see he's actually working toward helping schools and helping the school system," Danny said. "That was pretty cool."

Post Falls senior Macy Uemoto won't be using LAUNCH as she plans to go to a dermatology school in California, but she still enjoyed her time with the governor and appreciated his attention on her school.

"I've never met anyone that high up in office," she said. "I was excited to see what he had to say, firsthand. We learn about it in class, but you never think you're going actually meet the people or be involved."



    Gov. Brad Little discusses school safety, mental health, funding and improvements to school buildings with Timberlake, Post Falls and Lakeland high school students Thursday at Post Falls High School.
 
 
    Lakeland High School college and career adviser Carrie Paquette, left, and seniors Oliver Everett and Emma Marshall participate Thursday morning in a roundtable discussion with Gov. Brad Little.
 
 
    Post Falls High School senior Macy Uemoto speaks to Gov. Brad Little during a roundtable at the school Thursday morning.
 
 
    Timberlake senior Zachary Pasley listens Thursday morning as Gov. Brad Little speaks with local high schoolers in a roundtable format at Post Falls High.
 
 
    Lakeland senior Jack Law shares his thoughts Thursday morning during a discussion with Gov. Brad Little in Post Falls.