Twenty-four people testified to the Task Force for Improving Education tonight in Coeur d’Alene, as the governor’s education stakeholder task force held its fourth public forum and its best-attended one yet. “It’s good to see a packed house,” said Richard Westerberg, task force chairman and state Board of Education member. Seven of the 31 task force members attended.
By my count, among the 24 who testified over the course of the two-hour forum at North Idaho College, there were some overriding themes: Seven pleaded for more state funding and less reliance on local property tax override levies; six called for less emphasis on test scores and standardized testing in Idaho’s schools (said one grandmother of four, “We’re driving our kids crazy”); and five called for increased teacher pay.
Other popular ideas: Checking into the quality of online course offerings to Idaho students; including the arts and humanities along with the STEM topics, science, technology, engineering and math; and support and enthusiasm for the new Idaho Common Core standards for what student should learn at each grade level (one person spoke specifically against those, saying he didn’t want to see “national education”).
There was some anger, particularly over the voter-rejected “Students Come First” laws and concerns that they were enacted without input from parents and teachers. There was also lots of gratitude – to the task force for listening this time. “This doesn’t have to be the end of the dialogue,” Westerberg said at the close of the forum. He noted that online comments can be submitted to the task force at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Thank you very much for a great showing and some really good input,” Westerberg told the crowd of close to 100.
The task force’s next public forums are set for April 22 in Idaho Falls, April 23 in Pocatello, and April 25 in Boise; there’s more info here.