Troy teacher: ‘Idaho cannot continue to tolerate mediocrity’

Troy teacher Renae Bafus has started a statewide conversation over school funding.

She wrote an open letter to state superintendent Sherri Ybarra, discussing the crisis in her cash-strapped school district. Ybarra responded, saying she would push to restore K-12 funding to 2009 levels — before the Great Recession triggered an unprecedented series of budget cuts.

Bafus says the superintendent should aim higher.

“A defining movement is upon us,” Bafus wrote this week. “Idaho kids have one shot at their education and the time is ripe to push, like never before, for education. Idaho cannot continue to tolerate mediocrity.”

Troy High SchoolTroy will go back to voters on Aug. 25 to seek a one-year, $995,000 supplemental levy. Two previous levies have failed, forcing concessions both small and large. The high school football team is in limbo, and the district was forced to cut seven teaching positions. The start of the school year is on hold until Sept. 9, as administrators await the election results.

I will write an in-depth piece on Troy this week. Look for it on Thursday. In the meantime, here are links to Bafus’ original letter and Ybarra’s reply. And below, in full, is Bafus’ response to Ybarra:

“Hello Superintendent Ybarra,

“Thank you for your positive reply and work to improve Idaho’s educational landscape. I am behind you 100 percent.

“As you know, your response, future actions and persistence regarding Idaho’s constitutional mandates for education are important to many people. Through social media on Idaho Education News, my letter to you was directly shared over 200 times and it remains their most-read story in the last 30 days. And with last Friday’s national headlines about Washington State’s McCleary case sanctioning the state $100,000 per day for non-compliance, it is paramount that Idaho comply to today’s needs and demands for education — not those of 2009.  Precedent has been set by all nine justices of the Washington State Supreme Court who don’t want any more ‘dillydallying around’ (Associated Press).

“I am not sure why you are aiming at restoring funding to 2009 levels. Since that time utilities, insurance, teaching resources and pretty much everything has increased. Plus we began self-subsidizing our school meals to comply with Michelle Obama’s food program.

“As of today, Troy has prematurely and permanently lost seven teachers and support staff because of the financial instability of our school, caused by Idaho’s failure to constitutionally fund education. Each had worked for the Troy School District an average of 25 years; what a shame. The rest of us remaining, and our students, apprehensively wait for the Aug. 25 levy vote. Sad, but as of today, Troy will be the only football team in Idaho not practicing.

“At my annual Idaho Professional Technical Educators conference in July, one of the main topics I learned about was that Idaho business owners are more interested in an educated work force than tax cuts (Jeffery Sayer, director, Idaho Commerce Department). Sayer explained how he went to Idaho businesses with incentive packages but all they wanted to talk about was talent. “New companies and Idaho companies need to find the talent and Idaho could double in growth today.” Education will grow future innovators and leaders (state Rep. Paulette Jordan); and Idaho will grow in return.

“A defining movement is upon us. Idaho kids have one shot at their education and the time is ripe to push, like never before, for education. Idaho cannot continue to tolerate mediocrity.  

“I know you are busy and I do not need a response, we (Idaho) need(s) your action in September with your legislative proposals to include funding that will thoroughly support education at today’s levels.  Please let me know how I can assist with your efforts.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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