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Education news from the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area.

Latest from The Spokesman-Review

The Post-Obama education talks…

Good morning, Netizens…

O Lord spare us from the idiots we may become through being narrow-minded and ignorant! At least that is what cartoonist David Horsey seems to be saying this morning as we revisit one of his American cartoon families after the kids watched President Obama speaking to them in school yesterday.

If we cannot or will not heed President Obama’s words to our kids yesterday, if the kids are unwilling or unable to heed his words, we are doomed sure as the dickens to raising a generation of idiots.

After a thorough and careful review of his speech yesterday, ie., study hard and go to college, is there any cogent reason kids shouldn’t heed his words? Did anyone see or hear where President Obama tried to sell the kids on Socialist or Communist theories? One of America’s greatest resources upon which our very futures depend so heavily, upon which our very futures rely is that of our PEOPLE in the future.

In short, our kids are our futures. Without critical thinking, and good reading, math and history skills, we are doomed.


ITHO: Nonini Enjoys Teacher Pain

No Idaho teacher will be surprised by Nonini’s bald expression of resentment toward “those people” in the classroom. It helps explain the motivation behind much of what he has done as a legislator, and probably helps explain why Speaker Lawerence Denney appointed him to head the Education Committee. When speakers support the state’s public school system, they put education supporters in charge of that committee. When they don’t, they don’t/Jim Fisher, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Do you agree with opinionator Fisher that House GOP leadership appointed Nonini to chair the Education Committee because he’s against public education?

WEA president blasts Legislature

Via Publicola, here is the letter WEA President Mary Lindquist sent out to teachers after the Senate adopted a reform bill.


This bill is a travesty and an insult to the education profession. The groups behind it are vested interests masquerading as concerned citizens who care for children. Yet they’re denigrating and dismissing those of us who actually educate our state’s children!

Contrary to what you may hear or read, HB 2261 is a bogus education “reform” bill that blames educators instead of focusing on the REAL problem facing our schools: The nearly $2 billion in cuts to K-12 and higher education.”

So parents, the PTA and League of Education voters are among the “vested interests” faking their interest in the education of children. Interesting take.


UPDATE: My view on the matter is here.


Charity-A-Day: Education

As you may have seen in the Our Kids; Our Business section of today’s Spokesman-Review,  kicking off another week of charity-focus here at the Vox Box! We’ve investigated a huge range of topics; everything from Health, Animal Shelters, Food Banks, and more. Get ready and geared up for week two of ‘Charity-A-Day’!  Today we’ll tackle a big one: Education! (Yeah…the mention of that whole ‘school’ things usually inspires some groans and whining, but hold on - this is the good stuff…)

“Start with Trust”
The Better Busines Bureau is making education their main business with the BBB Education Foundation.  Found in Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana, the BBB works toward their goal to “promote and foster ethical relationships within our community” by inviting high school sophomores to discuss ethics and preparing our generation for what lies ahead. 

“…Raising a high bar for all students benefits all students.”
That’s the core belief of Seattle-based education charity, Alliance for Education.  Raising capital, creating challenging courses, and inspiring students within Washington, are just a few of the things Alliance does to “champion change and help drive effective strategies that will increase student achievement.” The Alliance for Education also rewards teachers: Two scholarship-awards are given out to remarkable educators and one award is granted to a notable principal. You can help this unique charity by donation or by volunteering at their annual October fundraising-breakfast…(and yes - by volunteering you get part of the breakfast…yummm, helping students can be delicious!)

“…Prepare students from underserved communities for success in universities.”
Accra, Mamprobi, Chorkor, and Dansoman: These are the areas of Ghana, West Africa that are being helped by the Darkwa Foundation.  With a branch in Bellevue, WA, Darkwa’s goal is to promote education in nurseries, pre-school’s, kindergartens, Middle schools, and primary school’s in Ghana - thus limiting poverty. The charity accepts donations as well as ‘In-Kind’ gifts, such as text books, curriculum guides, computers, and toys all to ”enable [the kids] to contribute to the development of their own country.”

Basic education bill: the details…

In a bill closely watched by schools advocates, the state Senate plans to vote on — and presumably pass — an amended version of HB 2261 this afternoon.

“We’re working with the governor and members of the House to agree on a bill to responsibly reform and retool our educational system,” Senate education committee chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe said in a statement about the proposal. “It’s critical that these reforms are meaningful and phased in over time to actually achieve and maintain progress. But we cannot disregard our current economic climate, particularly as we make drastic cuts to our schools, colleges and universities and eliminate health care coverage for tens of thousands of people.”

I wrote about some of the political tension around this bill in this morning’s paper. The short version: the state PTA and others are pushing to redefine basic education (which the state must pay for), while the state teacher’s union says the real battle should be trying to stave off a billion in cuts right now.

Here are some highlights from the Senate version of the plan:

-Redefines basic education: increases instructional hours from 1000 to 1080 a year, phased in over years. “Opportunity to complete 24 credits” for high school graduation. New transportation funding formula phased in, beginning in 2013.

-More: definition will include all-day kindergarten, phased in at highest-poverty schools first. Also, money for gifted students. It also starts down the path toward expanding early learning for at-risk kids.

-Prototype school: The amended bill will create a standard “core allocation” to base school funding on, including enhancements for gifted students, advanced placement and spelling out staffing levels in law. It would take effect in 2011.

-Timeline: The new definition of basic ed would be fully in efffect by 2018.

-Accountability: the state board of education would have to set up “a system to identify schools for recognition and additional support.”

-Teacher certification: the state Professional Educator Standards Board would have to “adopt performance standards for effective teaching and recommend other modifications for educator certification.”

And here’s the key part, especially in the eyes of the Washington Education Association:

-“Revenue: Not addressed.”


Redefining basic education: 11th-hour deal is close…

In tomorrow’s paper:

In an 11th-hour push, education advocates in Olympia are calling on lawmakers and the governor to update the decades-old rule that spells out what the state should pay for in public schools.
“We’ve studied this long enough,” said state school superintendent Randy Dorn.

Dorn, along with members of the state board of education, parent teacher association and League of Education Voters, wants lawmakers to redefine “basic education.” That’s the basic learning that the state is supposed to pay for, with schools left to add extras from their local tax levies.

The definition of basic education hasn’t changed since the 1970s, he and others say. It doesn’t factor in things that have become increasingly important, like technology and school security.
“We are not a Third World country, yet we are not even paying the full cost of taking the bus” to school, said Mary Jean Ryan, chairwoman of the state board of education.

“We’ve been leaning on, leaning on, leaning on local levies,” said Dorn. “They’re maxed out.”

House Bill 2261 would expand the definition of basic education to include things like all-day kindergarten, more early learning programs, raising the high school graduation requirement to 24 credits and adding staffers, including librarians, counselors and nurses.

The changes would almost certainly mean raising more tax dollars. An early version of the proposal came with a price tag of at least $3 billion.

Proponents argue that better education means a stronger economy and fewer social service costs later.

“This is urgent, it’s compelling, and it has to happen now,” said Tacoma parent Cheryl Jones.
Conspicuously absent from Wednesday’s chorus, however, was a major player in state politics: the teachers’ union. In an unusual public split among education advocates, the Washington Education Association has focused instead on trying to stave off major budget cuts.

“We have adults who are pointing to this bill and saying this is something good for kids,” said Rich Wood, spokesman for the union. “At the same time, we’re cutting a billion dollars from those kids and the education that they’re getting.”

Instead of more promises of money in the future, he said, lawmakers need to be finding ways

Bottom line: 7.7 percent cut in general funds

The bottom line on the public school budget set this morning is that the 2010 appropriation for Idaho’s schools was set at $1.3092 billion in general funds, down 7.7 percent from this year’s budget of $1.4185 billion. In total funds, including federal stimulus money, some of which is earmarked into certain programs like special education, the budget reflects a tiny increase of 0.4 percent.

The “Spokane Moms” remain in the game…

Last year, local young mothers went to bat in Olympia to win more state dollars for school libraries. They proved to be savvy grassroots lobbyists, and succeeded against pretty long odds.

Now, the same group is trying to put some meat on skeletal bills aimed at revamping school funding. After a year of work, a small group of advocates and lawmakers had proposed sweeping changes in how teachers are paid and evaluated and what the state pays for.

But some groups — notably the state teachers’ union — balked at the overhaul. And some lawmakers argue that a recession with a $9 billion state deficit isn’t the time to commit the state to billions of dollars in new spending.

“There is no money now,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said yesterday when asked about the plan. Yes, she said, the state needs to change what it considers basic education (and thus pays for), but she said there’s no sense in doing it now while the state’s still trying to dig its way out of a budget hole.

“I don’t believe you move forward now with putting something on the books when you don’t have any money to pay for it,” she said.

Undeterred, Spokane’s Lisa Layera Brunkan and Susan McBurney have gotten thousands of signatures in an online petition.

“With 2 million parents in the state, we can do this!!!” they wrote in a recent e-mail to supporters.

Statesman: It’s Raining Now

Our View: For Idaho schools, it’s raining now: Idaho schools face a downpour right now. And Tom Luna still wants to save for a rainy day/Idaho Statesman.

More Info: The state’s school superintendent would rather keep $114 million socked away in a savings account to protect public school funding - someday. He would rather condemn Idaho schools to historic budget cuts. He would prefer to move full steam ahead on $62 million in education cuts - including a plan to reduce school staff salaries by the equivalent of three school days, and a change in a busing reimbursement that would cost Boise schools $1.45 million.

Question: Should Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna tap the state’s large rainy day fund to prevent deep cuts in public school funding?


CDA To Open Kindercenter @ Hayden

Item: CdA district plans Kindercenter: School in Hayden Lake aims to ease crowding/Sara Leaming, SR

More Info: Amanda Crowder showed up at Ramsey Elementary School on Wednesday night admittedly “a little freaked out.” Like the parents of about 300 incoming kindergarten students in the Coeur d’Alene School District, Crowder recently learned her son, Braeden, will attend a kindergarten center in the fall, instead of his neighborhood school.

Question: Do you support the concept of a Kindercenter at the old Hayden Elementary School for the Coeur d’Alene School District?

Nonini Loses Cool With Lt. Gov. Little

Legislators are shoving for position as Gov. Butch Otter takes another step toward reshaping the State Board of Education with his fourth appointment to the eight-member board. Last week, a confrontation between House Education Committee Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Lt. Gov. Brad Little underscored the stakes as lawmakers jockey for their favorites. Nonini has a favorite for the job and let Little know. The appointment is the first major post to be vetted by Little since he took office last month. Otter assigned Little to review candidates for jobs that require Senate confirmation before Otter makes his nominations. But Nonini made his point to the even-tempered Little in such a loud voice that word of the incident quickly spread through legislative circles. “There was an issue,” Little confirmed. “He was pretty exercised and was talking about holding up the governor’s state board package”/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Do you support any of Nonini’s choices to replace Sue Thilo on the state Board of Education — Lorna Finman/Post Falls, president of LCF Enterprises; Jim Faucher, a retired hospital VP, and Fred Ostermeyer, a former NIC board chairman?

Nonini: Santa Obama Saves Idaho Ed

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, now says his controversial bills to make permanent cuts in laws governing school funding and teacher contracts may not be needed at all, what with big money coming Idaho’s way from the federal stimulus package. “It looks like Idaho could be in line for $160 million and some of that money could be available as soon as next week,” Nonini said. Some of the federal money is designed specifically “so teachers don’t get cuts in salary, teachers don’t get laid off and programs don’t get cut,” Nonini said. “We all thought it would be best to just not rush into the hearings”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Earlier: Plan anticipates $110M in school cuts

H/T: Bob

Nonini Goes After Idaho Schools

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, the House Education Committee chairman, proposed two far-ranging bills this morning to make permanent changes in state law to allow cuts in Idaho’s public school funding. Among them: No state funding for field trips, including academic outings, ever again. All school district contracts with staff would expire at the end of every fiscal year, and no terms or conditions could carry over beyond that. Idaho would repeal the law that requires no reduction in salary or contract days for experienced teachers. School districts could impose reductions in force regardless of contract terms/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Do you support Rep. Bob Nonini’s proposals?

Hot-button issue: state grants for college students who are illegal immigrants…

In tomorrow’s paper:

OLYMPIA _ Emotions ran high Wednesday, as state lawmakers discussed allowing illegal immigrant students – many of them brought to this country as young children – to qualify for millions of dollars in state college grants.

“As I look into their eyes and their hope for the future, I say let’s not draw a line around them,” said Rep. Dave Quall, D-Mount Vernon, who’s proposed House Bill 1706.

The proposal faces heated objections, however, from citizens unhappy about illegal immigration.
“Please turn off the bird feeder,” said Yakima valley resident Robert West. “The pie is only so big…I wonder what you’re going to tell those students who are U.S. students: `I’m sorry, but we gave your money to others who are here illegally.’”

One after another Wednesday, high school and college students, some without immigration papers, urged lawmakers to expand eligibility for state “need grants.” The grants are available to state residents whose families live on 70 percent or less of median income. Last year, some 72,000 students qualified for $182 million in help.

“We’re here and we’re ready to do something for this country. We love this country,” said Luis Ortega, a university student who said he’s maintaining a 3.5 grade point average.

“We are not asking for a free pass,” he said. “I believe in hard work. All I’m asking for is the opportunity to share the American dream.”

Over and over, the students described watching their parents toiling to make things better for their families. College is the ticket to a better future, they said.

“These are the doctors, the engineers, the teachers,” one woman told lawmakers, indicating rows

Early out of the gate: a bill from Driscoll

The state Senate is scheduled this morning to pass a bill, HB 1113, sponsored by local Rep. John Driscoll.

The bill is a $133 million sale of state bonds to pay for school construction projects that are already underway.

The work was already planned, but inflation and faster construction than the state expected means that the school construction fund was running out of money. The bond sale refills that pot of money.

“It would be foolish to stop projects that are halfway done,” said Driscoll.

The list, Driscoll said, include work at the Ferris, Shadle and Rogers high schools, as well as on school buildings in the Mead and Nine Mile Falls districts. All told, there are 167 projects in 67 districts.

“If school districts showed up for reimbursement and we said `Sorry,’ that would give another shock to the economy, a shock we don’t need,” said Hans Dunshee, chairman of the House construction-budget committee.

Hammond: Teacher Pay Cuts Possible

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, commended Luna for focusing on preserving the time that teachers spend with students. In nearly 20 years as an elementary school principal, Hammond said, he concluded, “The thing that I would need more than anything else is the people that are working for me. I could live without new textbooks for a year, I could live without the computer purchases.” He said it’d also be preferable for workers to take a pay cut than have layoffs. Luna said his proposal for cuts in state funding for pay for teachers and school administrators, implemented as school districts see fit, allows for that/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Would you willingly accept a pay cut if it meant preserving other jobs at your workplace?

Solons Target Teacher-Student Sex

Item: Teacher-student sex targeted: Lawmakers, others want tough law after state court ruling on 18-year-olds/Rich Roesler, SR Eye On Olympia

More Info:  It’s not illegal for a teacher to have consensual sex with an 18-year-old student, a state appeals court said two weeks ago. The response from state lawmakers: Well, it ought to be. House and Senate legislators want to ban any sexual contact between school employees and students when there’s more than five years’ difference in their ages. Violations would be a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Question: This is simple common sense, right? Anyone want to argue that 18-year-olds are adults with the right to vote — so they should be able to date whom they want?

Hammond: Different Tuition For Some

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, asked Idaho State University President Arthur Vailas if perhaps he should consider charging differential tuition - higher for high-cost programs, perhaps, that also set students up to earn big incomes once they’ve completed them. “Perhaps we should look at some kind of differential tuition?” he asked Vailas, at ISU’s budget hearing this morning in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Would you support Sen. Jim Hammond’s call for a sliding tuition scale, based on the type of degree an Idaho university student is pursuing?

Dorn opens with tough talk to lawmakers…

Newly elected state superintendent of public instruction Randy Dorn threw down the gauntlet on school funding Monday in his inaugural appearance before the state Senate education committee.

Money for schools must come first, Dorn told them:

“We’ve really never matched up the standards and how you fund education…I will be reminding the legislators that the number one, primary, paramount duty you have is to fund education. That doesn’t mean kinda number one, close to the top, it means beyond the top and out in front of everything else that you look at. That has to be your number one priority.

“That is a hard shift because there’s many many things that come to view that just strike you that we’ve got to do something about that. And it’s hard to place education absolutely above everything else. But you don’t have that choice. Your constitution says — and you take an oath of office — that you will follow that. So that’s what has to create all the decision-making…that’s where the funding has to be.

The lawmakers showed little reaction. Some shuffled papers; others gazed, showing no emotion, straight at Dorn.

Committee chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe said the budget remains a reality, and she wants input from Dorn to help lawmakers face the challenge.

“I’m asking you if you could help us, prior to seeing budgets released, could you give some input?” she said. “Because I think that’s critically important that you take this opportunity between now and a few weeks to kind of let us know, in this budget crisis, what would you do?

“I know you said it’s the number one priority,” she continued, “but we’ll take some share, you know that. While we will protect basic education, as we should. That is the paramount duty.”

Spokane Public Schools to make up snow days

Unlike last year, the district has decided to extend the school year. Be prepared for some cranky kids.