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Ed task force gets earful in Lewiston

The governor's education stakeholders task force heard concerns about funding, teacher salaries and standardized testing at its public forum in Lewiston last night, the Lewiston Tribune reports; click below for a full report. The newspaper reports that three of the 31 task force members attended the forum, though another report from Idaho EdNews says four task force members attended; tonight, the task force has a forum in Coeur d'Alene, at 6:30 p.m. in the North Idaho College student union building, Lake Coeur d'Alene Room.


Idaho's ed task force gets an earful at meeting
Kevin Gaboury,Lewiston Tribune, Idaho (MCT)

Members of the Idaho Task Force for Improving Education received feedback from several teachers in Lewiston Monday night, ranging from salary concerns to complaints about standardized testing.

Three members of the 31-person statewide task force were in attendance at the meeting at Lewis-Clark State College, including Idaho Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, and Steve Higgins, president of the Idaho Association of School Administrators and principal at Grangeville High School.

State Board of Education member and task force Chairman Richard Westerberg gave attendees an update on the group's progress. The task force was created by Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter after the repeal by voters of the Students Come First legislation in November and has met on four separate occasions since. Seven community forums will be held in cities across the state this month.

A major goal of the task force is to have 60 percent of Idaho citizens ages 25-34 receive some form of postsecondary education by 2020, Westerberg said. Most of the best jobs in Idaho require at least a bachelor's degree, he added.

“It's an economic imperative because that's where the jobs are,” he said.

The three focus areas of the task force are fiscal stability, structural change and effective teachers and leaders, Westerberg said. The recommendations and input from citizens will be taken back to the full task force in May.

In all, six people spoke at Monday's meeting. Lewiston second-grade teacher Alex Church raised concerns about the large discrepancy in teacher pay between Washington and Idaho. Principals can make up to $13,000 more per year in Washington, he said.

“Idaho needs to put more money into salaries to recruit and retain teachers,” he said.

Lewiston teacher Jill Schmidt said she has taught for 32 years in Idaho, and she has found standardized testing is not the way to measure student proficiency.

“To base it on one assessment is sad and it's wrong,” she said. “There's more to children than a test. I implore you that we look at the whole child in what we do.”

Idaho Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, said he has watched the Legislature “serially underfund” education for the last nine years.

“Funding is probably one of the major issues,” he said. “You can't even get average results with bottom-of-the-barrel funding.”

Lewiston kindergarten teacher Melinda Genoway said more focus should be placed on the state's earliest learners, but this cannot be done without adequate funding.

“We're requiring more than we ever have of kindergartners,” she said. “With the common core, they're expected to be reading and writing stories.”

She added that paying teachers for performance is a “divisive technique.”

Ken Krahn, a retired educator from Lewiston, said Idaho ranks near the bottom of the 50 states in education because “we're hiring teachers to be baby sitters, not educators,” he said.

Idaho needs to fund education from the bottom up, not the top down, he said.

“I'd like to see the state of Idaho step up and give our teachers the chance to teach,” he said.

Gaboury may be contacted at kgaboury@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2275. Follow him on Twitter @KevinGaboury.

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©2013 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

Visit the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) at www.lmtribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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