Schools chief Tom Luna praised educators and administrators Thursday for voicing their education concerns during the recent legislative session.
During a post-legislative session meeting in Meridian, Luna said teachers’ and administrators’ perspectives on everything from teacher pay to school district management helped shape the policy lawmakers developed.
“Your voice was heard in keeping money in teacher compensation and your voice was heard for needed use-it-or-lose it (spending) flexibility,” Luna said.
About 250 people attended Thursday’s event at Meridian Joint School District No. 2’s district office where Luna, State Department of Education staffers and other officials offered the Cliff’s Notes version of the 88-day legislative session.
The meeting was the second in a series of four post-legislative session meetings Luna and his office are conducting across the state.
On Monday, educators and administrators attended the daylong session through the Idaho Education Network at one of six regional sites. IEN connections to the meeting were available in Sandpoint, Grangeville, Lewiston, Homedale, Hailey, Idaho Falls and McCall.
As for Thursday’s meeting in Meridian, the summit offered attendees – mostly school administrators – an overview of the seven labor and bargaining bills, school funding, charter school laws and the partial repeal of the personal property tax.
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But much like Wednesday’s task force meeting in Nampa, much of the conversation was devoted to professional development and Common Core standards.
The State Board of Education and the 2011 Legislature adopted the new math and English language arts standards. Those new standards will be taught for the first time across the state next school year. Luna and Chief Deputy Superintendent Nick Smith asked educators to work with the state to inform parents and patrons about the enhanced standards and help bust myths being circulated.
Smith said opposition to the new state standards is just becoming organized, and he fears the concerns will intensify across Idaho in the coming months.
“We have just started seeing that pushback during the session,” Smith said. “We believe the issues and concerns surrounding the implementation of Idaho Core Standards will continue to grow as other states potentially overturn their adoption of (their core) standards.”
The state has been working to train and prepare educators to implement the new standards since 2011. This year, the Legislature provided $3.7 million for professional development related to the standards. Additionally, lawmakers will allow districts to share up to $8.4 million to buy back professional development days – money from a larger $21 million allocation for local pay-for-performance plans.
Through Feb. 1, 2,535 of the state’s 17,000 educators have been trained on core standards, which leaves plenty of work to be done with the money the Legislature provided, Smith said.
“We all know an educator’s professional development cannot be a one-stop shop,” Smith said. “We have got to have that continued reinforcement.”
The state has also developed 250 lesson plans that align with core standards and partnered with colleges and universities to help with the transition.
“We partnered with higher ed to ensure the teachers that are going to be coming out of our training programs are ready,” Smith said. “It doesn’t do us any good to provide professional development and training if we’re always playing catchup.”