Screenshot, Little education ad

This screenshot from Brad Little’s latest campaign ad shows him posing with a classroom full of kids.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Brad Little has launched a new campaign commercial, which began airing statewide this week, focusing on education.

The ad, which features Little in a classroom, with teachers and with kids, makes general promises to prioritize education, promote local control and parental input, and “invest in our teachers.”

While the ad contains no specifics, his campaign pointed to his education plan, which is posted on his campaign website, and which does have some specifics on some of those topics.

On teacher pay, Little calls for raising the starting teacher salary in Idaho to $40,000, from the current $35,800. It’s scheduled to rise to $37,000 next year in the final year of the five-year phase-in of Idaho’s “career ladder” teacher pay plan. Little also calls for signing bonuses for teachers who choose to work in rural Idaho.

His plan calls for “local control, local solutions” and “allowing teachers and parents choices to find the best ways to educate their children.” It also says, “School board members, PTAs and teachers are the front lines of our education system. … As governor, Brad will increase their voice in the Legislature, and commit to policies driven by those closest to the students.” But it doesn’t say how.

Zach Hauge, Little’s campaign manager, said in an email, “As state senator and as lieutenant governor, Brad Little has always valued parents’ voices on education. The ad is to let voters know that will not change if (he is) elected governor.”

“The points made are definitely general,” said Boise State University political scientist Jaclyn Kettler. “But I think they’re trying to emphasize his focus on education, his kind of general approach to working on education.”

The ad also appears to be reaching for bipartisan appeal, she said, “kind of emphasizing things that speak to those who lean more right — thinking about tax dollars spent more wisely, local control, parent involvement. And at the same time, appeal to people maybe in the middle or lean a little more left — investing in teachers and children,” she said. It also sends the message “that education will be a major focus for him in office,” which Little has stressed throughout his campaign.

Kettler said the commercial has high production values, like most Idaho campaign commercials this year. “They look very good, they’re well designed,” she said. “The ending picture with him and all the kids is adorable. So I think it’s visually appealing.”Kettler noted that Little’s ads during the hotly contested GOP primary campaign in the spring were “much more negative in attacking opponents.” They show, she said, that “the primary was a very different election than the general.”

This is the second TV ad Little’s unveiled this fall, with the first more focused on introducing him and his background. Kettler said the education ad appears to be a good follow-up to that one. “I think focusing on education is a smart move for his campaign,” she said.

Little’s Democratic opponent, Paulette Jordan, hasn’t aired any ads on broadcast television as yet.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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