Idahoans have a choice on Nov. 6 to move education forward or send our kids backward. The costs for disrupting the progress we have made through education reform couldn’t be greater. In two short years, Idaho is on the national radar as the education reform state.
Because of the education reform laws known as “Students Come First,” students in Idaho will be better prepared for the 21st century, teachers will be better compensated, and the quality of education a student receives will no longer be determined by where he or she lives.
Voters are hearing a lot of rhetoric about what these laws do and don’t do. Here are the facts:
Because of these laws, students in Idaho have the opportunity to take a year’s worth of college credit while still in high school paid for by the state. Every Idaho high school student will have access to a computer while in school. The classroom teacher will control how the computer is utilized in the learning experience. Teachers will integrate digital and blended learning throughout a student’s high school career so all kids are prepared for higher education and the workforce. The investments in technology are paid for with new general fund dollars. Teacher salaries are not being used to pay for laptops.
Teachers in Idaho will be better compensated than ever before. Idaho, like other states, has tried to raise teacher pay, but after 50 years of trying the same strategy over and over again, it’s time to pay teachers differently. Idaho teachers will receive more than $38 million in pay-for-performance bonuses this year. That’s a 5 percent increase in compensation compared with the 2 percent other state employees will receive. Next year, teachers will receive another $14 million for teaching in hard-to-fill positions, and taking on leadership roles. All of this, funded with new money, is in addition to their base salaries.
There will be more accountability in education at all levels. These laws put locally elected school boards in charge. New teachers will no longer receive tenure after three years. Teachers who have tenure keep it. New teachers will work under up-to-two-year contracts. Idahoans know that tenure isn’t good for students. Now, school districts have the local control to put better contracts into practice.
Parents often raise concerns because there aren’t substantial opportunities for parental involvement other than fundraising and class parties. I believe if parents were given more opportunities, they would be more involved. The Students Come First laws require parent input in teacher and principal job performance. Isn’t it time for our parents to have a voice?
All these positive policy changes will be eliminated if voters don’t uphold the laws in November. The Spokesman-Review likes to downplay this disruption, but I take it very seriously. A no vote will take away the opportunity for students to earn college credits while still in high school. A no vote yanks away the opportunity for teachers to earn more money outside their base pay. A no vote will take away a parent’s voice in the classroom. A no vote puts tenure back in Idaho’s classrooms. Is this disruptive? I think so.
I want to keep Idaho’s classrooms moving forward, that’s why I’m voting yes on Propositions 1, 2, 3 on November 6.