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Eye On Boise

Opponents of ‘Students Come First’ school reform laws kick off campaign

Boise parent Maria Greeley speaks at the campaign launch for the effort to repeal the
Boise parent Maria Greeley speaks at the campaign launch for the effort to repeal the "Students Come First" school reforms on Tuesday; three referenda on the November ballot will either uphold or repeal the laws. (Betsy Russell)

More than 100 people gathered on the steps outside Boise High School today to kick off a statewide campaign against the "Students Come First" school reform laws, which are up for possible repeal in three referendum measures on the November ballot. "We urge Idahoans to vote 'No' on all three propositions," said Mike Lanza, a Boise father of two and campaign chairman. "These laws take us backward, not forward. They make it harder for teachers to do their jobs effectively. They are bad for children, bad for teachers and bad for Idaho."

Gov. Butch Otter already has formed a PAC to fight to preserve the laws, and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the laws' author, pushed hard for them at last weekend's state Republican Party convention.

Lanza, drawing applause, said, "This is a non-partisan campaign. We have people from all political persuasions who support this effort. Education is important to everybody." Speakers at the campaign launch included Boise mother of four Maria Greeley, who said her son struggled in an online class last summer and ultimately opted to withdraw and take the class in person.  She decried the new requirement for online classes as a high school graduation requirement. "This one-size-fits-all mandate hurts our students and diminishes the quality of education," Greeley said.

Nampa 5th-grade teacher Sonia Galaviz said last year was the most difficult of her teaching career. "My classroom size jumped from 27 to 35," she said. "I had no aides. ... However last year we did get various technological devices. ... We would have done anything to turn those ... into a live human teacher."

The reform laws include phasing in a laptop computer for every high school student, a new focus on online learning, a merit-pay bonus program for teachers based partly on test scores, and rolling back teachers' collective bargaining rights. Any new funds in the public school budget in future years would go first to those new programs, before other expenses such as teacher salaries.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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