Task force releases its wish list

A teacher career ladder program costing $253.8 million over six years.

Restoring school operational funding to pre-recession levels — at a five-year cost of $82.5 million.

A shift to funding Idaho public schools based on enrollment — at a potential cost of $60 million.

Another attempt to equip students and teachers with personalized computing devices.

A push for the “rigorous and successful implementation” of Idaho Core Standards, the state’s version of Common Core.

These are among the most costly, or controversial, ideas coming from Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force.

The State Board of Education released the draft recommendations Thursday — one day before the 31-member task force meets in Boise to sift through the ideas and make its recommendations to Otter.

It’s unclear how the recommendations will be received by the full task force — a wide-ranging group of education stakeholders, business leaders and elected officials. The task force has been working in three subcommittees for the past three months, and hasn’t held a full meeting since May.

It’s also unclear how Otter will respond, and what recommendations he might take to the 2014 Legislature. Otter has said little about the task force’s work so far, but on Wednesday, he said cost will be a “limiting factor” to reform.

Still, the subcommittee reports convey a sense of urgency, tied to the State Board’s ambitious goals for postsecondary education. By 202, the board wants 60 percent of Idaho’s 25- to 34-year-olds to hold a postsecondary degree or certificate.

Says one report: “Significant structural change is absolutely necessary if the state is to achieve the 60 percent goal. … Today, Idaho’s education system is perfectly designed to produce 39 percent of Idahoans (25 to 34 years of age) with at least a one-year degree or certificate.”

Among the highlights from the subcommittee reports:

  • Teacher salaries. The career ladder plan would raise Idaho’s minimum teacher salary from $31,000 to $40,000. For veteran teachers, pay could increase to $50,000 to $60,000 — but raises would be tied to performance. “Such a model will entice individuals to enter the teaching professional (sic) and provide incentives for them to improve their craft and to remain in Idaho.” In November, voters rejected Proposition 2, a law establishing a teacher merit pay system.
  • “Discretionary” funding. In 2008-09, schools received $25,696 per classroom in so-called “discretionary funding,” which helps pay for anything from fuel and utilities to insurance premiums. In 2013-14, that figure was $20,000. “Restoration of operational funding is not growth in government. It is restoration necessary for the operation of schools and districts.”
  • Enrollment-based funding. Currently, school districts receive state funding based on average daily attendance. This is difficult for districts to calculate, and it discourages districts from providing a mobile, personalized learning experience. “A funding model based on ‘seat time’ impedes the progress of a student toward mastery.” The state could shift to enrollment-based funding by simply changing the funding formula — but some districts would lose money under this equation. An option to fully fund student enrollment carries a $60 million price tag.
  • Student mastery. Idaho schools need to move away from a system based on student seat time requirements — and toward a system based on mastery of material. “We strongly believe the classroom of the future will include more technology, fewer traditional textbooks, and more personalized/differentiated learning.”
  • Common Core. The new math and English language arts standards were a recurring theme during the task force’s seven public hearings in April — with most speakers opposing the standards. But a task force’s “structural change” subcommittee calls the standards a “major step” toward reaching the State Board’s 60 percent goal.
  • School technology. The structural change subcommittee also makes a strong push for classroom computing devices — a centerpiece of Proposition 3, the classroom technology law rejected by voters in November. “We recommend that every educator and student have adequate access to a computing device to support equal access and opportunity.” The subcommittee makes no specific recommendation on equipment — and makes no attempt to estimate the cost.

The draft recommendations are the culmination of eight months of task force work. Otter formed the task force in December — weeks after voters rejected Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the K-12 overhaul proposed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and supported by Otter.

The task force will meet from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the Hatch Ballroom at Boise State University’s student union building. The meeting will be open to the public, and will be streamed online.

Coming Friday: Follow Idaho Education News for complete coverage and a live blog from Friday’s task force meeting, and follow @idahoednews for live tweets.