After working in education throughout the world, one thing is clear — innovation in education is happening outside the United States at accelerated rates. And while there are many exceptional pockets of excellence in the U.S. and right here in Idaho, those best practices are not being identified and applied in our state. I’ve met with countless organizations who say it’s a waste of time to support innovation in Idaho public education because it will “never change” due to the status quo attitude of Idaho career politicians — and that time should be invested elsewhere piloting and scaling models for education excellence in an Innovation age.
Meanwhile, Idaho parents want their children to have a quality education leading to higher wages and more job opportunities. Idaho education leaders and teachers want to see their students engage and want to come to school. Idaho schools want to improve attendance, increase graduation rates and accelerate learning. And overall Idahoans and Idaho businesses want to create a more competitive workforce — ultimately preparing Idaho kids for Idaho jobs.
So with all these necessary ingredients right here in the state, what is the problem facing Idaho’s education system today? It’s simple: lack of leadership. Complex problems can only be solved when an effective leader formulates a vision, collaborates on a shared plan — and builds and leads a laser-focused, hardworking team to get things done.
To date we have not had that kind of leadership in Idaho. But today we have such a candidate running for governor. A candidate with a real-world track record of identifying problems, creating a shared vision, collaborating on a plan of attack and leading boldly to execute and get things done. That candidate is Tommy Ahlquist, who not only served as an ER doctor for over 18 years — but successfully created and led businesses that employed thousands of Idahoans — and his plan for education is included in his Conservative Blueprint for An Even Better Idaho.
Many of us in Idaho have put our time and money towards improving education. The potential and ability are there, but we are consistently stopped in our tracks by Idaho career politicians too invested in the status quo, which doesn’t provide Idaho with what we need to build a thriving economic future for ourselves and the next generation.
It is clear to everyone that we can do better. We have all the necessary ingredients right here and right now in Idaho to successfully shift our education model to the skills needed for the 21st century. Our state is still small enough and nimble enough to act. All we need is true leadership in the governor’s office — leadership able to unleash and direct the state’s education potential. We have the opportunity in front of us to show the rest of this country how it’s done. We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to act.
We all know it’s time Idaho is no longer near the bottom in state high school graduation rates. We all know it’s time for our students to be allowed to develop their potential for jobs of today and the future. We all know it’s time we stop losing our kids to other states because they can’t find good paying jobs at home.
It’s time we put our Idaho kids first, not the career politicians. It’s time to “say no to the status quo” and elect Tommy Ahlquist as Idaho’s next governor — and bring a fresh approach, new ideas, real world leadership and a track record of getting things done to Idaho education.
Written by Lorna Finman, Ph.D. Stanford University, CEO STEM Revolution (education non-profit), Board member for North Idaho STEM Charter Academy.