As the IEA celebrates American Education Week, November 15-19, 2021, we encourage Idahoans to reflect on the many benefits public education provides, along with what needs to be done to ensure that our state has strong and vibrant public schools for generations to come. There are both opportunities and challenges ahead for Idaho public schools and the decisions that are made by our elected officials and our populace will impact students around the state.
First and foremost, recognition. American Education Week is a great opportunity to thank those who help students learn, grow, and prosper. That includes classroom teachers, support staff who serve in many different roles, administrators, parents, grandparents, and everyone else who touches the lives of Idaho students. Public schools are the foundation of our society, and we should express our gratitude to those who help students build brighter futures.
Next, a reminder. If we fail to protect our public schools and professional educators, the access and opportunity to a great education that we all take for granted could slip away. Idaho schools are under attack from extremists whose goal is to undermine, and even destroy, the foundation our public schools provide for so many students. Their methodology is to distract from the real issues facing Idaho schools with misinformation, sensationalizing, and political grandstanding. The good people of Idaho will rue the day they let this vocal minority dictate what happens to our students and professional educators.
And lastly, opportunity. Idaho’s economy is strong, and the legislature has a chance to make financial investments in our public schools and show support for our dedicated professional educators. It is a chronic embarrassment that Idaho is last in the nation in per student funding. Class sizes are sixth highest in the nation and too many Idaho students do not have access to the mental health support they need. Fortunately, Idaho is sitting on a $1.45 billion budget surplus and has the opportunity to finally make a game-changing investment in public education. Idaho’s professional educators have been targeted and marginalized far too often in recent years. It’s time for the legislature to dispense with the vitriol and show their support for educators whose overriding objective is to provide students with the skills and opportunity for long term success in life.
So, as American Education Week arrives, take a moment and follow these three steps. Recognize an educator for their hard work and caring. Remember what is at stake and the price students might have to pay for the actions of disingenuous adults. And encourage Idaho’s elected officials to seize the opportunity to invest in our students, schools, and professional educators.