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Idaho State House Representative Merrill Beyeler was among a contingency of Local Education Project (LEP) advocates that met with the Lemhi County Commissioners on Monday April 11.

LEP Director Tiffany McAlister along with committee members Cindy Phelps and Bob Gutzman were accompanied by Lemhi County Economic Development Association (LCEDA) Director Tammy Stringham and LCEDA President Allen Howell. The LEP leaders presented the organization’s statistics of success. They then asked their legislative link to explain the proposal in he made in the House on behalf of LEP and education in general.

Beyeler said the concern to keep in mind is what happens to young people when they graduate from high school. He said 60 out of every 100 boys in Idaho do not go on to any higher form of education or training. That equals 62 percent and means only 38 percent of the male graduates obtain more education. The numbers are better for female high school graduates, showing that 44 percent of them continue their educational training.

Other figures he said he keeps in mind have to do with demographics. Beyeler said in the next five to ten years 50 percent of Idaho’s work force will be eligible for retirement. He said, “Then you begin to see the situation that we’re in because if we do not get these students trained…because we are going to retire the most educated population that we’ve ever retired in the United States.”

Beyeler said a lot of time went into working on what he believes to be a good product. He said the concept introduced in the State Legislature concentrates on high school and pre high school students and would provide them with a career path to the first living wage job, a job capable of sustaining a family. Otherwise, he said, they will end up with a minimum wage job that will provide around $15,000 a year which is not a living wage. Connectivity is the crucial component in the path.

Beyeler said the Coeur d’Alene Tribe does a lot of work in rural education and has heard about the Lemhi Education Project. He said that last week he received a phone call saying the tribe has awarded the LEP a $7,500 grant to continue what it is doing for education.

The Idaho Legislature has passed legislation to fund what is called a “Career Advisor.” Beyeler said the idea of a Career Advisor is someone who will advise students and begin to connect the business world back to the schools and students to the business world. He believes that is a step in the right direction and provides an important opportunity for continued education. He said the LEP program can connect recently graduated students with a path forward and with the business community.

He said there is a great deal of interest in the program. According to Beyeler the Association of General Contractors has a program called “We Build Idaho” which lists types of jobs, what the jobs pay and where they are located and forms a link leading back to rural communities.

He said educational leaders in the legislature are aware and very interested in LEP. Beyeler said he sees great opportunity. “When I look educationally. When I look economically. I do not think there is anything more important than what this type of a model will create for Idaho.” He said others are seeing it too. Beyeler said the purpose of education should be to create a pathway to that first living wage job, hand in hand with the business community.

McAlister and Beyeler both said the state has to see local community support for the LEP program from the city, the county and the school board in order to maintain interest on the state level.

The County Commissioners expressed full support for the work the LEP is accomplishing. In the past the city and the county have each contributed $12,000 annually. The amount of contribution for fiscal year 2017 will be determined by each entity during their upcoming budget processes.


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