Wayne Hoffman

Idaho Freedom Foundation executive director Wayne Hoffman has some questions to ask about the future of Idaho’s educational offerings.

I have a few questions to pose to you:

What if we could have, here in Idaho, an education system where a student who was excelling could move ahead onto the next lesson or the next class?

What if underperforming students could have more time with their teachers so that they could catch up with their peers or even meet up with or pass excelling students?

What if it were commonplace for high school students to take college courses during their sophomore, junior and senior years, instead of being a rarity?

What if a student in Challis could learn chemistry from a chemistry expert in Boise or Salt Lake City or London?

What if our students routinely were exposed to classes at MIT or Harvard or Oxford?

What if all students had access, at their fingertips, to 100,000 volumes of classical literature, even if their school library only had 1,000 books?

We live in an amazing time of technology and possibilities. Yet we continue to have the same old debates about education as if it were the 1950s. Idahoans rejected the school reforms passed by the 2011 Legislature. But that doesn’t mean we should stop talking about education reform. In fact, Idaho should lead the discussion.

Here are some thoughts on education going forward:

First, every child should be able to be educated in a way that best meets his or her needs. For some, that is a traditional public school, like the one my son attends. For others, it is a charter school, like the one my daughter attends. It might also be a private school, or a home school. It might be an online education, or an education system that uses a blend of digital learning and classroom time.

Second, the state should eliminate any barrier to a successful, thriving public school. Such barriers might include a pay structure that keeps the best teachers from being highly paid for their hard work and systemic dynamics that divert money and staffing resources unnecessarily out of the classroom. The Legislature should debate each of these, one at a time, one bill at a time: Why is tenure good public policy? Why are master labor agreements that have no expiration good public policy? Should universities be able to participate in the creation of charter schools? And so on.

Third, the state requires people to pay into a public education system. But sometimes the public education system is not the best system for a student. Therefore, the state should create a mechanism to make sure that students are able to access the education system that best meets their need, and not hold them captive to a system that doesn’t. Such a mechanism might include an education scholarship funded through tax credits, which are perfectly constitutional andappropriate in a state like Idaho.

And finally, the linkage between K-12 education and higher education should be more seamless than it is today. The Legislature should encourage that fluidity, making it easier for kids to move on to a college degree.

The education debate didn’t end in the 2012 election cycle. It is only beginning, and one that should take priority during the coming legislative session. It is that important, and I bet if we work at it, we can even find common ground and a path forward that will benefit future generations of Idahoans.

  • Ryan McGill

    Mr. Hoffman,

    The best solution that meets the needs of learners without dividing the nation along socioeconomic and religious lines is to equitably fund public schools across the entire state. Allow schools to diversify their approach based on the needs of the students.

    Creating a competitive environment among and between teachers within a building is no way to motivate teachers or to create more competent learners.

    Mr. Hoffman, we are not having the same debates since the 1950′s. We have since integrated schools and passed comprehensive special education laws to improve the lives of students and families. We have an inclusive public education system that works hard to not leave students behind.

    To address your list of questions:

    Your 1st question: We have that in Idaho. It’s called differentiation and skipping grades/GATE.
    Your 2nd question: We have that in Idaho. It’s called RTI. It’s federal law.
    Your 3rd question: We have that in Idaho. It is available. Students are encouraged to take classes.
    Your 4th question: We have that in Idaho. It is called the IEN. Luna and Otter have used it.
    Your 5th question: Students have access via internet.
    Your 6th question: Again, students have internet access and access to college libraries.

    Your tax-credit idea will not be considered constitutional.

    You can’t call your educational research institute ‘non-partisan.’ Everything you tout follows the party line of Republicans in Idaho. Your opinions do not qualify as ‘non-partisan.’

    I am not disparaging the Republicans in Idaho; I hunt and fish with many of them.

    Please accurately identify your organization as a partisan institute; at least conservative-free-market oriented.

    Please be honest about your intent. You want vouchers.

    Ryan McGill

  • Kevin S. Wilson

    Mr. Hoffman:
    It’s bad form to pass someone else’s ideas off as one’s own. If you’re going to sell model legislation drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the least you could do is give them credit and an attribution. Here’s a link to the ALEC-authored model legislation that mirrors your “thoughts.”


  • Larry LaRocco

    Mr. Hoffman: In your next release please reveal all the organizations and individuals that fund the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Thank you. Larry LaRocco

  • Michael Reineck

    Mr. Hoffman,

    Would your front group lose it’s tax free status if it’s non-partisanship was not lied about?

    An organization based on a lie is corrupt.

  • Lonnie Swonger

    I am sure Mr. Hoffman is truly sincere in sharing his ideas. Now, how much he making off this deal (as others) who knows? I do know that if the republicans supported the complete opposite, he would back that just as sincerely. Larry, we miss you in Idaho. The days when voters had a real say. Now, you vote DOWN every idea that Jeb’s boys wanted, they ignore the voters. Sad, really. We may have the least representation of any state in the nation.