After six months of meetings, lots of presentations and visits to schools across the country, the 38-member “Students Come First” technology task force is meeting this morning to hear - and vote on - the recommendations from each of its subcommittees, on how to implement new technology initiatives in Idaho schools, including phasing in providing a laptop computer for every Idaho high school student and teacher and a new focus on online learning. “The work that has been done here is historic, and it's definitely unprecedented in its scope and in its focus,” said state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, the task force chairman and the architect of the “Students Come First” reform plan. “Every member of this committee brings a different background and a different opinion, but we all had the same goal, and that is to assure that we're preparing our students for the 21st century world that they'll live in.”
Before beginning the subcommittee reports, Luna went over the budget request that he's prepared for public schools for next year. “There is good news in this budget proposal, because it's the first time in a number of years that we've been able to request an increase and justify it,” Luna said. He's calling for a 5.1 percent increase in state funding for schools next year, including additional state funds to pay for the laptops and a new teacher performance-pay bonus plan; the Students Come First law, passed by lawmakers this year, calls for cutting teacher pay to fund those items. “This budget backfills that so that there will not be a decrease in salary-based apportionment,” Luna said.
The entire Students Come First plan, which also includes removing most collective bargaining rights from teachers, is up for a vote in November of 2012 in a referendum, which could repeal it.