At the first meeting today of the governor’s 31-member education stakeholders task force, members spent some time hearing about the fiscal impact on the current year’s budget of the failure of Propositions 1, 2, and 3, and the ongoing programs in school districts for which funds are left unallocated because of the measures’ failure; that includes adjustments in the “use it or lose it” funding provisions for school districts and funding for additional math and science teachers. However, some members thought the task force shouldn’t wade into the legislative debate over how to reallocate the fiscal year 2013 school budget.
At one point, task force Chairman Richard Westerberg, a state Board of Education member, said, “I guess I’m just a little puzzled. When everybody around the table agrees that these four or five budget items for 2013 oughta be funded, why the heck can’t we just say so?” The panel finally decided, in the words of facilitator Mike Rush, executive director of the office of the State Board, that “the message this committee is sending is not that they’re opposed to that. … We just don’t feel like it is in our purview.”
Another area determined to be outside the group’s purview: Labor issues, including those addressed in the voter-rejected Proposition 1 regarding rolling back teachers’ collective bargaining rights. “We’re not here to talk labor issues,” said Ken Edmunds, president of the State Board. He said, “The issue is educational improvement and what do we do about it.”
The group threw out ideas and filled up numerous big sheets of paper with suggestions ranging from “not one size fits all” to “teacher preparation.”
“We need consistent, ongoing professional development, not one-day workshops,” said Idaho Teacher of the Year Katie Pemberton, from Canfield Middle School in Coeur d’Alene. “I think we should ask the question of why high school graduates are not pursuing some form of post-secondary education,” said Mike Lanza, a Boise parent and co-chair of the successful campaign to defeat the propositions. Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “There’s no differentiation between a really good teacher and one that’s just hanging on day by day. If we’re going to effectively use the dollars we’ve got, we’ve got to figure out a good way to differentiate between those teachers and how they’re compensated.” Said Laurie Boeckel of the Idaho PTA, “We need to define what equity is.”
Edmunds noted that Gov. Butch Otter included $33.9 million in his 2014 budget proposal for possible improvements agreed upon by the stakeholder group and legislators, though he also said he wasn’t seeking legislation this year, and instead would consider any major changes next year. Edmunds said of the $33.9 million, “This is a recommendation, and that’s where the politics start.” But, he said, “There’s so many ideas, so many things floating out there. … The nice part is somebody’s actually holding a carrot out there and saying you have the potential to affect approximately $33 million of the budget.”
The stakeholder group is scheduled to meet again Jan. 25 and Feb. 8.