If kids truly count in Idaho, then as an educator I have no choice but to support A. J. Balukoff for governor. The term “count” is misleading. I’m not writing about knowing addition facts, or knowledge of multiplication tables! For the past several years, political rhetoric has focused on kids and how their education is a priority. Unfortunately, reality proves otherwise.
If children truly counted and their education was a priority, these facts wouldn’t be so obvious!
- Many school districts shifted to a four-day instructional week. Trustees haven’t made this decision lightly. In most cases, if not all, it has been driven by the absence of funding. All kids are at risk, from the student body president to the “lost soul” kindergartner. One more day in a non-structured environment is not in the best interest of children!
- Many districts have been forced to implement “furlough days” because of the inability to continue their regular calendar days of instruction. Common sense should tell us that a quality education requires more days of instruction, not less!
- Teacher morale is at an all-time low. Human nature is human nature, no matter what profession. All workers perform at a much higher level if they are treated with respect and dignity. No matter what the intention of the Otter/Luna laws, they sent out a clear message that teachers were less than valued, and would be “shaped up” contrary to overwhelming testimony on their behalf!
- There is a mass exodus of teachers out of Idaho. Nearly every district in Idaho has experienced serious challenges in filling their vacant teaching positions. That fact can only be interpreted to mean that teachers are not clamoring to teach in our state!
- Local supplemental levies are expanding at an unprecedented rate. School trustees, like the rest of us Idahoans, are conservative by nature. They don’t ask for supplemental levy approvals without serious thought. They ask for voter approval when the option to not ask, means hurting kids!
- Class sizes have increased drastically in many districts. This has happened for several reasons including pupil growth, previous reductions in force, and state commitment to give further tax cuts to the politically connected. What about the option of reinstating educational funding?
- Post secondary education has not been immune to this state abuse. The “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign touts the lack of preparation as a reason for our low college graduation rates. How about the cost factor? In 1980, an Idaho public college student paid about 10 percent of the total of their tuition and fees. The balance was paid by the state of Idaho. Current numbers show that a college student pays about 47 percent of college costs. If you come from a family that works for minimum wage, and are not a 310-pound defensive tackle, the cost of a college education is out of reach!
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address contains the profound words; “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Apparently little people in Idaho aren’t people! They aren’t on the current governor’s priority list, and for good reason, they don’t vote, they don’t contribute to political campaigns, and they don’t have expensive lobbyists.
We need political leadership that represents all of Idaho. We need a leader that will listen to all sides of a political issue and find room for compromise. We need a leader that prioritizes the needs of children and recognizes that they are our future. We need a leader that can rise above the “good ol’ boy” political insider circle. We need a leader that is a “moderate” — not an ultra-conservative and not a liberal. For those reasons I urge you to vote for A.J. Balukoff for governor.
Jim Cobble is the superintendent of the Camas County School District.