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Posts tagged: task force

Ed task force goes back to work in two new committees…

The governor’s education improvement task force met today in the form of two new committees working on teacher compensation and school structure and governance, Idaho Education News reports, and the groups hope to report to members of the State Board of Education and Gov. Butch Otter by August or September on detailed strategies for implementing the original task force’s 20 recommendations. During the 2014 legislative session that concluded March 20, lawmakers partially implemented 13 of the 20 task force recommendations. Accomplishing the full program is “clearly an effort that will require a lot of work,” said Richard Westerberg, task force head.

Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin reports that after Mike Lanza of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together complained last week that he was booted off the task force for joining Democrat A.J. Balukoff’s gubernatorial campaign,  George Harad represented the group at today’s meeting, though Lanza also attended and took notes. You can read Corbin’s full report here.

Cheering for education in the cold…

About 75 well-bundled teachers and their supporters gathered on the Statehouse steps this afternoon to rally for improving Idaho schools and press for state lawmakers to enact the 20 recommendations of the governor’s education stakeholders task force, which range from a new teacher career ladder system to restoring funds cut from schools since 2009. “During the recent recession, there were only a handful of states who suffered more severe cuts than Idaho did,” Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr told the crowd. “This cannot continue. … Legislators need to step up and fund our public schools.” She was greeted with cheers from the surprisingly cheerful crowd, which stood amid small clumps of ice and snow, mostly huddled together on one side of the giant Statehouse Christmas tree.

Cyr called the task force plan “a solid step forward for improving education in Idaho.” Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise, also got cheers from the crowd when he said, “I’m one of those rare animals that you’ll see around the Statehouse – I’m a Democrat.” He said minority Democrats have “a small voice,” but said, “It’s like going to bed with a mosquito in your bed – you never know how irritating a small person can be.”

Aaron White, of White Electric and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said he wants his two young sons to get a good education and grow up to find good jobs, all without leaving the state.

More than three dozen testify on ed needs

Lots and lots of people spoke at the education stakeholders task force forum in Boise this evening; by my count, 37 had testified by the time the meeting ended around 9:20 p.m. Among those, 15 spoke out against the new Common Core standards. The next-most common theme was the need for increased funding for Idaho’s schools, followed by a call for more focus on early-childhood education, special education needs, increased flexibility for Idaho school districts, increased teacher pay and skepticism over merit-pay plans.

“This is not the end of the information-gathering,” task force chairman Richard Westerberg, a state Board of Education member, told the crowd at the close of the hearing. Comments still are being accepted via email, at taskforce@osbe.idaho.gov. Plus, Westerberg said comments from all seven public forums around the state will be transcribed and given to all members of the 31-member Task Force for Improving Education; more than a dozen of those members attended tonight’s forum.

Said Westerberg, “This has been a good evening.  I appreciate your passion, appreciate your attendance.”

Big, passionate crowd focuses on funding, concerns about Common Core

At tonight’s education forum at the state Capitol, there’s a big and passionate crowd, and several common themes have emerged among the first 20 to speak: Backing for more funding for Idaho’s schools; opposition to the new Common Core standards for what children should learn each year; and support for special education, improved teacher pay, more flexibility for local school districts and more focus on early-childhood education.  “If Idaho today was making the same effort at funding public schools that it did in the ‘80s and the ‘90s, Idaho public schools would have $550 million more in funding than they have today,” former longtime state chief economics Mike Ferguson told the crowd. “This magnitude in funding reduction has not been without consequences.”

Former four-term state lawmaker and longtime teacher Steve Smylie said, “I think it’s pretty simple what we need to do, four things. One, understand that the problem is really infrastructure. Two, we need to get on the same team, we all want the same thing. Three, it’s going to cost money. So far, we don’t seem to be willing to pay for it. A survey from 2012 by Gallup … indicates that 65 percent of Americans would be willing to increase their tax payments to support struggling schools. We don’t seem to feel the same way here. No. 4: This isn’t some hidden mystery, we already know what will improve schools – it’s just simply a matter of doing it.”

Phoebe Smith, whose daughter joined her along with her service dog, told the session, “The first solution to education funding: Return tax levels to where they were in the ‘90s, then use that money to fund education and restore Idaho’s social safety net. … I want Idaho to stop playing games with education.”

Opponents of Common Core standards were particularly outspoken, and greeted with big cheers and applause. Richard Twight called the standards a “perverse, un-American system,” and said, “With Common Core our children are to be transformed into creatures of the central state.” Susan Frickey called Common Core “the new miracle drug,” and said, “Look hard at the intended and unintended consequences of this path, particularly the very large, very permanent federal footprint evidenced in compliance with these standards and what they would mean to our local education and state sovereignty in Idaho.”

Meanwhile, the State Department of Education has posted a list of “myths and facts” about the Common Core standards; you can read it here. Testimony is continuing.

Ed task force holds Boise hearing…

The seventh and final public forum by the governor's education stakeholders task force is tonight in Boise, starting at 6:30 p.m. MT. You can watch live here.

100+ turn out for ed stakeholders forum in Pocatello; Boise forum set for Thurs.

An energetic crowd of 101 turned out at Tuesday’s education stakeholders task force meeting in Pocatello, reports Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News, and their concerns focused on supporting teachers, criticism of the new Idaho Common Core standards and more; you can read Corbin’s full report here. Larry Gebhardt, an adjunct faculty member at Idaho State University, called on task force members to foster a renewed culture of learning, and said teachers have not been shown the respect they deserve. “The overall tone of legislation in education policy indicates a great disrespect toward teachers and teachers in Idaho on K-12,” Gebhardt said. “There is no epidemic of bad teachers and bad faculty. Students are getting the best result from the limited resources available.”

Two members of the 31-member task force attended; it was the sixth community forum the group has held around the state in the past two weeks. The final forum is set for this Thursday at 6:30 in the Lincoln Auditorium in the state Capitol; the public is invited to offer its input on how best to improve education in Idaho. There's more info here.

More than 200 turn out for ed stakeholders forum in Idaho Falls; Pocatello, Boise up next

More than 200 people turned out for last night’s education stakeholders task force public forum in Idaho Falls; tonight, the task force heads to Pocatello. Reporter Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News reports that the new Common Core state standards were a big topic at the Idaho Falls session, as were funding issues. Four of the 31 task force members attended the session, including state schools Superintendent Tom Luna. You can read Corbin’s full report here; tonight’s forum starts at 6:30 at Century High School in Pocatello; and Thursday, the task force will hold its final public forum of the series in Boise, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Auditorium on the lower level of the Idaho State Capitol.

Ed stakeholders forums in Idaho Falls tonight, Pocatello tomorrow, Boise on Thurs.

The governor’s education stakeholders task force, dubbed the Task Force for Improving Education, is continuing its community forums around the state this week, with a forum in Idaho Falls scheduled this evening, Pocatello on Tuesday, and Boise on Thursday. Tonight’s Idaho Falls forum will be at 6:30 at Tingey Auditorium at University Place; Tuesday’s at 6:30 at Century High School in Pocatello; and Thursday’s at 6:30 at the Lincoln Auditorium on the lower level of the Idaho State Capitol. The public is invited to offer comments; there’s more info here.

Five months after voters rejected them, teacher contract curbs from Prop 1 are back on the books

Five months after Idaho voters strongly rejected them, a series of laws limiting school teacher contract rights in the state is back on the books.   Gov. Butch Otter has signed five controversial bills into law to revive parts of voter-rejected Proposition 1, on everything from limiting negotiated teacher contract terms to just one year to allowing school districts to cut teacher pay from one year to the next without declaring financial emergencies. Four of the five bills have emergency clauses making them effective immediately – one, the bill limiting contract terms to one year, is retroactive to Nov. 21, 2012, the day the voters’ Nov. 7 decision took effect.

“Maybe there was some partisanship in those, I fully understand that,” Otter said. “I don’t think I could’ve asked, nor did I ask the Legislature to only address those things that they were going to get total, unanimous support for. I said where you can find consensus, come forward with ‘em, and we’ll work on ‘em, and we’ll work on ‘em together.” He said, “I think we picked the low-hanging fruit, and the low-hanging fruit was those things that seemed reasonable, those things that reached a consensus and those things the Legislature passed. And I’m proud.”

Otter pointed to other measures that won broad support, some of which passed without a dissenting vote in either house. One of those revived a little-remarked provision from Proposition 1 to require all teacher negotiations to take place in public; another revived a requirement for master labor agreements to be posted on school districts’ websites. A third, HB 261, forbids teacher layoffs from being done solely by seniority; that’s a change from Proposition 1’s provision that seniority not be considered at all, and the bill passed unanimously.

But the five bills, like the 2011 “Students Come First” school reform laws that Idaho voters repealed through three historic referenda in November, all passed with little or no Democratic support and with bipartisan opposition in both houses. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Packed house, anger, gratitude at ed stakeholders task force forum in Coeur d’Alene

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 taskforce@osbe.idaho.gov. “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.

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.

Just two members of ed stakeholders task force attended last week’s public forum in Twin Falls

Only two of the 31 education stakeholders task force members attended the Thursday night public forum in Twin Falls, reports Idaho Education News. A crowd of just under 50 turned out, but only a handful testified; the meeting, scheduled to run for more than two hours, broke up after barely an hour. You can read a full report here from Idaho EdNews’ Kevin Richert; it was a smaller turnout than the first forum in Nampa the night before, where nine task force members attended and 19 people testified.

The sessions were the first of seven scheduled statewide this month; tonight, there’s one in Lewiston, and tomorrow night, Coeur d’Alene. Also scheduled are forums in Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Boise. The governor and the state Board of Education organized the task force to identify a path forward after voters in November soundly rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws enacted in 2011.

Mike Lanza, co-founder of the parents and teachers group that campaigned against the rejected laws, offers this commentary here on the forums and encourages people to attend and have their say.

Ed stakeholders task force public forums start tomorrow in Nampa, public comments sought

The governor’s education stakeholders task force is launching its seven-city tour of the state this week, with the first public forum tomorrow night in Nampa. Boise State Public Radio reports that attendees at the Nampa forum, set for 6:30 p.m. at the Nampa High School Little Theater, will see five to 10 of the task force’s 31 members, hear a short speech by the chairman, and then the floor will be turned over to the attendees. “These sessions are to get public feedback and input, and so the bulk of these forums will be to hear from the public who attends,” she says.

Here are the questions the State Board of Education wants people to consider before speaking at the meetings:

* What is the basic amount of funding needed to adequately educate a student in Idaho?

* Given the finite amount of funding, how would you like it spent in your school?

* How should/could we balance a decentralized model with the Constitutional requirement for a uniform, thorough, common system of education?

* Is funding based on attendance an appropriate model?

* What should be the measure(s) to hold schools and districts accountable?

* What should we be measuring with respect to student achievement?

* What should be done about schools/districts that continually underperform?

* What professional technical education skills would you like to see taught in high school?

The hearings continue on Thursday night in Twin Falls, next Monday in Lewiston, April 16 in Coeur d’Alene, April 22 in Idaho Falls, April 23 in Pocatello and April 25 in Boise; you can see Boise State Public Radio’s full report here.

Ed stakeholders task force sets seven community forums around the state in April

The governor's education stakeholders task force has scheduled a series of seven community meetings across the state this month, including sessions in Nampa, Twin Falls, Lewiston, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and Boise; click below for the full list, including times and locations.

“This is an opportunity for all stakeholders to learn about what the Task Force has been working on and to offer feedback and ideas about education in our state,” said Richard Westerberg, task force chairman and state Board of Education member. “We hope to get the input of a broad cross section of the public including parents, students, educators and civic leaders.” The Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Falls and Boise sessions will be streamed live on the Internet by Idaho Public Television.

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About this blog

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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