As a former local school board member and Chairman of the Idaho Senate Education Committee I have worked to improve education for all of Idaho’s kids. And, I have always measured that improvement against results. Recent results tell us that Idaho students are not only doing better, but on a national comparison are doing quite well. Idaho’s eighth graders tied for eighth in math and tied for 15th in reading. The number of high school students taking college courses doubled in just one year. Idaho’s “go on” rate has improved as well as the number of Idahoans attaining a post-high school degree or certificate.
So I was surprised and disappointed that in light of all this good news A.J. Balukoff choose to run such a negative campaign about Idaho and specifically our schools. Balukoff’s attacks are an affront to Idaho’s hard-working teachers, dedicated parents and talented students. Balukoff seems to think that the only good schools and the only great teachers are in Boise. This is a critical flaw found in many politicians from Boise.
Balukoff also makes the liberal mistake of believing that the only measure in education that matters is how much money you spend and ignores the most important factor: how you spend the money you have. It’s not surprising that Balukoff falls for this liberal mindset because that’s how he has managed his own school district. Taxpayers will be surprised to know that the Boise School District, where Balukoff currently serves as school board chair, has 10,000 fewer students then the Meridian school district (now West Ada) but spends over $15 million more. That’s right: the Boise school district has 10,000 fewer students and spends $15,000,000 more. How did Balukoff pull this off? Simple, he raised property taxes without even allowing local taxpayers a vote.
Prior to legislation I sponsored creating transparency in state payments for school transportation, the Boise Independent School District, under Balukoff leadership, gamed the system by offering district students hamburgers to ride the bus on critical funding days. The balance of the school districts in the state suffered less funding to accommodate the Great Hamburger Caper!
The facts are clear that Idaho gets a great bang for its education dollar and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce agrees. It recently reported that Idaho gets the third best Return on Investment for education spending. Last year Idaho was 11th in the nation in increasing teacher pay and the National Education Association reports that average teacher pay in Idaho is over $50,000 per year: ahead of both Utah and Montana.
We must continually work to improve Idaho’s schools and we are. I was honored to be part of the Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education made up of all education stakeholders. This very diverse group of over 30 Idahoans unanimously agreed to 20 recommendations that have put our schools on a five year plan of improvement. We are already one year into this important work and we must stay the course.
Idaho is a great place to live, work and raise families. I am optimistic about Idaho’s future and the future of our kids. That’s why I fully support Gov. Otter. I hope you will join me in voting for Gov. Otter on Nov. 4.
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Sen. John Goedde is a Republican from Coeur d’Alene. He lost in the May GOP primary.