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Tuesday, August 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Guest opinion: To improve Idaho schools, put kids first

Margaret Gannon

St. Maries recently passed a supplemental levy allowing for extra funding – money our schools desperately need. While this is great news for our educators and students, the levy is merely a Band-Aid over a bigger problem. Education in Idaho is in need of improvement.

But, instead, the blame game is hindering progress and dividing all of us who are invested in education. Some blame legislators for not listening, unions for spreading misinformation, nitpicking data points or organizations for not stepping in. Pointing fingers is not going to do us any good.

My perspective comes from more than one view: Not only am I a school board member looking out for the good of my district, I’m also a mother and a grandmother who wants the best for my family.

The reality is, unless whole communities work together, nothing is going to change. Education affects everyone. Parents, students, board members, trustees, administrators, legislators and business leaders all need to work alongside one another to collaborate on solutions.

After attending Gov. Butch Otter’s task force for improving education meeting last month in North Idaho, I was inspired. It made me believe that something positive is coming for education. The amount of interest and constructive input from the community, paired with the diverse backgrounds and passions of the people on the task force, was astonishing.

It felt like our opinions mattered. The task force asked us to address issues like providing equal opportunities for students, what to do with underperforming schools and common core implementation. Funding even came up. I nearly tipped out of my chair when it did. Finances have never been discussed as part of a sustainable model in all the years I’ve been part of a school board.

Before any more bickering rises up trying to point fingers at one side or the other, let’s all take a much-needed step back and ask one question: Will this help kids? I’m stubborn on a lot of things, but when it comes to education, stubbornness has to give way to provide the biggest boost for our children.

We all need to evolve to build the best system for our students. For those who think the kids who have the same tools and opportunities we had when we were in school are enough, that’s just not the case. Kids today need to be equipped with all kinds of information and skills to prepare them for life after school.

The governor’s task force for improving education will be meeting again later in the year and in focus areas throughout the summer. The state board of education has established ways anyone can submit feedback for task force members to consider. I encourage all of you to offer constructive feedback via email ( to the group, or take part in programs like Don’t Fail Idaho to become part of a constructive conversation. We can help create the change our children need to become part of an educated state.

Margaret Gannon has been a member of the St. Maries District No. 41 board of trustees since July 1999.
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