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Press edit: Teachers take that fair offer

Great teachers are worth their weight in gold.

But all teachers aren't equal.

That's the fundamental problem when teachers' unions - when any public unions - push for across-the-board increases. All employees don't produce the same results, so they should be evaluated individually and they should be rewarded individually.

As Coeur d'Alene School District negotiators continue their back-and-forth “discussions” now well into the 11th hour - anybody notice that the new school year is about to start? - several disrupters have become apparent.

For one, union negotiators are either oblivious to or simply disregard the tremendous boost they received from the school district last year. Teachers received an across-the-board increase of 2.5 percent last time around, the biggest raise of its kind in the entire state. It was not one-time bonus money, either. It's now baked into every teacher's annual wages going forward. Yet there's no acknowledgment of that windfall as teachers pursue another 1 percent across-the-board increase this time around, plus additional raises based on other criteria. Complete editorial here.

Agree or disagree? Should teachers/negotiators accept the offer?

Idaho wildlife experts talk turkey to teachers

WILDLIFE — Wild turkeys have a lesson to teach, according to the Idaho Fish and Game Department, which has scheduled a teacher's workshop based on the birds this month.

Although turkeys roam wild areas and neighborhoods alike, many people know very little about the giant birds, said Phil Cooper, department wildlife educator.

What do they eat?  Where do they sleep to avoid predators? Do they nest in trees or on the ground?  Why do some gobble and others not? Are domestic turkeys and wild turkeys the same? 

And, why are some of them walking around these days with their brilliantly colored tail feathers all fanned out? 

A “Wild about Turkeys” Project Wild workshop is being offered in northern Idaho for teachers and youth leaders. Attendees will learn about the interesting and unusual habits of the wild turkey, a non-native species that was introduced into Idaho in the 1960’s. 

Grade school educators often talk about turkeys when Thanksgiving rolls around each November.  Teachers participating in this workshop will receive activity guides they can use with their students…and the materials are tied to Idaho’s state standards!  

Scheduled for April 25-26, the workshop includes a Friday evening (4-9 p.m.) at the Post Falls Cabela’s store, and most of the day on Saturday, which includes a field trip.  Space is limited, and pre-registration is required. 

Sign up for this or a future Project Wild workshop online at fishandgame.idaho.gov. Go to the “education” tab, then click on “Project Wild” specialized workshops.   Optional continuing education credits are available through multiple Idaho Universities for a fee.

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.

Many Nampa teachers quitting

As teacher contract negotiations continue in the Nampa School District, Idaho Education News reports that nearly 100 teachers and community members participated in an hour-long tailgate party before last night’s school board meeting, designed to welcome new board members and urge the district to focus on retaining good teachers, at a time when as many as 20 percent of Nampa’s teachers have quit their jobs ahead of the upcoming school year.

“We continue to have people come in and tender their resignations, and that is ongoing,” said Interim Superintendent Pete Koehler, Idaho EdNews reports. “I expect that to continue all the way up through the month of July until we hit the point where the law says we must now take action.” Betsy Russell, EOB More here.

What action do you think the Nampa school board will take?

Press: Yes To Luna Laws, Teachers

On Friday and Sunday, The Press will publish editorials explaining the editorial board's support for the three education propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot. But before we tell you why we believe these are important steps in elevating public education in Idaho, we want to state unequivocally our support for all the great teachers in our state and particularly in North Idaho. The public education structure has fallen far behind what's needed for Idaho's students to compete in tomorrow's work world. Education isn't alone in having fallen behind; in the blink of an eye the world has changed faster and more dramatically than ever before, and few have adjusted sufficiently. Yet public education will flourish again because it continues to attract some of the finest, most dedicated professionals. Within a more effective structure, those individuals will be public education's salvation/Coeur d'Alene Press Editorial Board. More here.

Question: Agree/disagree?

Richert: Why Are Teachers Leaving?

Let’s first process the numbers, before we commence with the inevitable spin. In 2011-12, 1,884 Idaho teachers left the profession. Idaho had 17,851 certified teachers in 2011-12. In other words, this is more than a 10 percent turnover. That should be a wakeup call. We should all at least be able to agree that recruiting — and retaining — quality teachers is the key to a quality education. Losing more than a tenth of the teaching workforce isn’t how you get it done. But in the bitter debate over the future of public education, the teacher turnover numbers have, predictably, become a choice talking point. The Idaho Education Association blames the growing exodus on state schools superintendent Tom Luna and his Students Come First K-12 overhaul. Luna’s office blames much of the turnover on the recession. The reasons matter, of course. And guess what? It’s complicated/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (2011 SR file photo of a Priest Lake classroom for illustrative purposes)

Question: Why do you think Idaho teachers are leaving — Luna Laws, recession, personal reasons, all of the above?


Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/10/04/2297700/idahos-complicated-teacher-exodus.html#storylink=twt#storylink=cpy

Teachers Will Get Merit Bonuses

Here's a new wrinkle in the ongoing dispute about timing of the first merit-pay bonuses to teachers under the new “Students Come First” school reform laws, in which the Idaho Education Association has been accusing state schools Supt. Tom Luna of holding the bonuses hostage, to be paid out only if the reform laws are upheld; and Luna has been insisting he's constrained by timelines and can't send the bonuses out before the election. Turns out, it actually doesn't matter. Teachers who earned the bonuses last year will get them this fall regardless of the outcome of the referenda vote on Nov. 6/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Thoughts?

Thanking a teacher

This is from Donna Euler, a program supervisor at the Idaho Youth Ranch.

“While attending the University of Idaho in 1970, I enrolled in a class entitled Mental Retardation. The professor was Robert Otness, PhD, who was a strong advocate for those with mental and physical challenges. Dr. Otness had traveled all over the world visiting institutions for the mentally disabled. As part of the class, he displayed items made by the residents of the institutions he had visited. The class members were amazed by the quality of the crafts and it helped us see this population of people in a different light.

“In 1975, I visited Dr.Otness to tell him I was now working at a state facility for the developmentally delayed and how much his class had impacted me. I was surprised when, at the end of our visit, Dr. Otness presented me with a book from his personal library complete with a hand written inscription.

“Dr. Otness is gone now but I continue to treasure the book and the gift of knowledge that he gave me.”

Student teacher investigated for sex crime

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether a sex crime was committed when a student teacher reportedly had a relationship with a 17-year-old high school girl.

Read the rest of Jody Lawrence-Turner's story here.

On “The Twilight Zone” 50 years ago

A teacher being forced into retirement finds himself wondering if his life meant anything in an episode called “The Changing of the Guard,” which first aired on June 1, 1962.

Several of his former students come back to answer that question. They're all long dead, of course. But their testimony is quite touching.

www.tvrage.com 

Teachers To Attend Meeting In Black

Huckleberries hears … that Coeur d'Alene School District teachers are encouraging one another to attend Thursday's district negotiation meeting at Woodland Middle School at 4:30. The meeting is open to the public.  Teachers will be wearing black in order to show their support for the CEA representatives involved in this negotiation process.  The teachers are worried that this new conservative board (two members of which were recently appointed) is adhering strictly to Superintendent Tom Luna's Students Come First legislation despite previous board's commitment to honor decades old principles found in the now defunct master agreement.  The negotiations are covering class size maximums, types of classes a teacher will teach, benefits such as health care coverage and also salaries. (CSD photo of trustee appointee Ann Seddon, who will take office June 11)

Thoughts?

Some writers should check their work

When processing a letter that derides teachers in the public schools, it's often tempting to publish it as is — without correcting spelling or punctuation.  This one arrived today:

 

 
 
I believe if you want any clue to how well the teachers union and their members are doing teaching our children all you have to do is see how many are making a passing grade in their class's, how many are dropping out of school and how many can make the grade to get into a college!!!! Enough said, we need better teachers not more money in the school system!

Tara: Teachers Made Me Who I Am

Everyone has a favorite teacher; that one person who went the extra mile and made a measurable difference in their lives. Sometimes it is someone who makes you really want to learn about a particular subject, sometimes it is someone who instills in you a desire to be the best at any certain thing, sometimes it is a coach. Regardless of who that teacher was for each of us, those people are under attack in this country, especially in Idaho where influence on policy is radiating from corporations not classrooms. For me, there isn't just one teacher who made a lasting impact on my life, there were a half dozen or so who are a large part of who I am today/Tara Rowe, Political Game. More here.

Question: Is there a teacher or teachers who had a major influence on your life?

Signe: When Teachers Blog

Signe Wilkinson/Philadelphia Inquirer

Science teachers honored

Four Idaho science teachers were honored today with the Governor’s Industry Award for Notable Teaching in Science, or GIANTS award. Kuna High School teacher Angela Hemmingway; Edward Katz of Bonners Ferry High School; Jennifer Martin of Homedale Middle School; and Ponderosa Elementary School (Post Falls) teacher Karlicia Minto Berry took the awards, each of which carries a $2,000 prize. Honorable Mention awards of $500 each were presented to two additional teachers: Dennis Kimberling of Lakeland Junior High School (Rathdrum) and Liberty Elementary School (Boise) teacher Chris Taylor; all were nominated by the student council or parent groups at their schools for “making science exciting, challenging, and relevant.”

Lt. Gov. Brad Little presented the awards today on behalf of Gov. Butch Otter, who’s out sick today. Click below to read the full announcement.

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.

EXCERPT:

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.

Thoughts?

UPDATE: My view on the matter is here.

 

Teachers, unimpressed with a much-touted bill to redefine basic education, have this to say…

Teachers and their union are profoundly underwhelmed by House Bill 2261, which passed the Senate yesterday with much fanfare. Proponents say the bill is a path to the biggest overhaul in school funding in decades — billions of dollars —  but Republicans and the Washington Education Association point out the bill includes no money source. Here’s the WEA’s video take on the situation, with a little help from Tom Cruise.

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.”

 

Thousands of teachers laid off? A look at the House budget and “trickle-down pain”…

A day after the Senate, House lawmakers proposed a budget plan that cuts much deeper into higher education but spares K-12 education from some major cuts.

The House plan would strip $683 million from colleges, even while raising tuition at four-year schools 10 percent a year.

“We are asking them to take the biggest cut” despite the fact that the schools are engines of innovation and worker retraining, said Rep. Kathy Haigh, D-Shelton. “They will have to do the hardest work to figure out how to get through these tough times. But I know they can do it.”

The Senate plan, which would cut $513 million, is estimated to mean 2,500 fewer higher education jobs. House officials wouldn’t put a number on their proposal, saying they would leave it to the individual colleges to meet budget targets.

As for K-12 schools, the House would cut $625 million, compared to the Senate’s deeper $877 million in cuts. Much of that money would come from a voter-approved measure designed to shrink class sizes by hiring more teachers.

But even under the House plan, Haigh predicted, many teachers will lose their jobs.
“If we can keep other funds whole,” she said, “maybe we won’t lose more than 3- or 4,000 teachers.”

A top Senate budget writer, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, also estimates that 2,000 state workers will lose their jobs.

“This is not a very pleasant day for any of us,” said House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler.
Lawmakers will spend the next few weeks agreeing on a final plan.

State spending would still rise

Both budgets total about the same: $32.3 billion, compared to the $33.7 billion budget approved two years ago. That doesn’t include $2 billion to $3 billion more in expected federal help. And both the House and Senate budget would reduce state pension payments by hundreds of millions of dollars and use millions more in long-term construction dollars to support the operating budget.
In other words, the state will still be spending significantly more in this budget than in the last one.

“We now know where the Enron accountants turned up: writing this budget,” said Rep. Doug Erickson, R-Bellingham, criticizing the fact that that the federal aid wasn’t included in the budget.

“Today we got the status quo,” said Erickson, indicating the House budget. “We’re going to borrow more, we’re going to spend more, and we’re going to pass the debt on to our kids.”

He and other Republicans say the budget crisis was a chance for long-term spending reforms, but that majority Democrats resisted that. Over the past 4 years, state spending rose $8 billion. Republicans argue that the state must overhaul state spending to ease the burden on taxpayers and businesses.

“It’s really hard to imagine people who are having difficulty meeting payroll in their small businesses, and yet our state employees have one of the richest health care plans that’s out there,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “I find that just amazing.”

House budget writers said Tuesday that they tried to preserve basic education and the state’s social safety net, as well as state-subsidized health insurance for kids.

Taxpayers are likely to be asked for a tax increase to help avoid some of the cuts, said Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham. But what tax and how much have yet to be worked out.

Wherever possible, Haigh said, lawmakers want to set a budget amount and let school districts, state agencies and colleges figure out the best way to meet it. Many wanted that flexibility, lawmakers said.

“There was trickle-down economics,” said Haigh. “Well, this is trickle-down pain.”

UPDATE: Local higher-ed breakout:

How the House and Senate budgets would affect local universities:

Locally, Eastern Washington University would fare about the same under either plan, with about an 18.5 percent cut from what it would cost to maintain current programs. Washington State University would lose 17 percent to 18 percent. The deepest cuts under either budget would be at the University of Washington, which would lose $134 million under the House plan.

Teachers greet governor with inauguration day call for better school funding…

Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire’s inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.

Their message: despite the state’s budget shortfall — which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years — education is not the place to cut.

“We’re not here for us,” one organizer said. “We’re here for the kids.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who’s governor, have changed since then, she noted.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future,” Lindquist said.

She blasted those who suggest that, given the state’s economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they’re getting.

“Those people are wrong,” she said. “We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education.”

She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.

“You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm,” she told the crowd.

Look for lots more demonstrations — state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor — in the coming weeks.

Court: Teachers, 18YO Can Have Sex

Item: Appellate court rules teachers can have sex with 18-year-old students/AP

More Info: State law does not bar teachers from having sex with 18-year-old students. That’s the decision of a three-judge panel of the Washington Court of Appeals, which on today ordered the dismissal of a case brought against Hoquiam High School’s former choir teacher. The teacher, Matthew Hirschfelder, was charged with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor.

Question: Do you agree with this ruling?

Teachers greet governor with inauguration day call for better school funding…

Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire’s inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.

Their message: despite the state’s budget shortfall — which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years — education is not the place to cut.

“We’re not here for us,” one organizer said. “We’re here for the kids.”

The president of the state teachers’ union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who’s governor, have changed since then, she noted.

“The one thing that hasn’t changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future,” Lindquist said.

She blasted those who suggest that, given the state’s economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they’re getting.

“Those people are wrong,” she said. “We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education.”

She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.

“You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm,” she told the crowd.

Look for lots more demonstrations — state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor — in the coming weeks.