It’s past time for a bold initiative for education

Gov. Brad Little is following in his predecessor’s footsteps by creating yet another task force to study the next steps Idaho should take in education. In the meantime, the Legislature has taken piecemeal steps to restore investments to our schools post “Great Recession.” Even so, they failed to fully fund the minimum teacher base salary to $40,000 as promised.

Let’s be honest: Idaho is hemorrhaging both new and veteran teachers. Unfortunately, it is far more lucrative for a new college graduate with a teaching certificate to bolt for any number of neighboring states with substantially larger teacher salaries. Ditto veteran teachers who haven’t seen a pay increase for years.

In fact, as the Idaho Education Association (IEA) reported this year, the average salary for Idaho’s teachers has actually decreased post recession when adjusted for inflation. Despite what the politicians say, educators are losing ground.

Idaho is increasingly becoming a “have” and “have-not” hodgepodge of districts. Some can afford to pass levies to properly fund their schools and some cannot. Yet, the overwhelming majority of districts pass these levies because it is clear Idahoans care about our kids receiving a quality education. The state, meanwhile, is passing the buck on investing in our schools to property owners.

It’s not just compensation. The politicians talk all day about the importance of preparing our students for post-high school jobs or degrees. Unfortunately, they refuse to invest in high school-based career technical training that would send students out the door with invaluable skills Idaho employers need.

Idaho fails to invest in all-day kindergarten even though the data makes it clear how much our kids benefit from such instruction – especially kids in the poor, rural areas of our state.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Reclaim Idaho is proposing a ballot initiative which asks for modest investments from rich Idahoans earning over $250,000 per year and Idaho’s largest corporations. If successful, new revenue would be directed to a dedicated fund districts can use to invest in career-technical programs, kindergarten, special education, and teacher compensation.

The piecemeal approach to education we’ve followed for a generation has put Idaho behind the rest of the nation. We need a bold initiative to fulfill Idaho’s Constitutionally-mandate to provide a thorough and uniform education for our students. Idahoans have demonstrated over and over through the rejection of the “Luna Laws” and overwhelming approval of levies they are invested in education for our young people.

Unfortunately, our Legislature continues to fall short of their Constitutional duty to invest in our schools, students, and teachers.. It’s time for Idahoans to take matters into their own hands and provide our students with the resources they need to get a world-class education regardless of their zip code.

We can do better. We will do better. There is no alternative if we are serious about improving educational outcomes in Idaho. I hope you will join me and Reclaim Idaho in the ballot initiative to Invest in Idaho.

Written by Levi B Cavener, a social studies teacher in Caldwell.

 

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