In calling the recent K-12 budget proposal “unacceptable”, some members of the Idaho State Board of Education are tacitly “accepting” several consequences that, without a reinvestment in our public education system, will continue to stifle the growth and threaten the future prosperity of our state. The great people of Idaho should encourage, and even demand, that our leaders do what it takes to make this an exemplary state for public education — and not settle for mediocrity.
Here are a few points for all of us to consider.
- Idaho consistently ranks in the bottom five states when it comes to per-pupil spending on K-12 public education. While funding is not the only element necessary to create an effective learning environment, it has been proven to be a critical determining factor.
- Idaho’s per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has fallen 15.9 percent since 2007-2008. Only four states imposed more severe public education cuts than Idaho during the recent recession.
- Restoring funding lost during the recession is a necessary first step, but we should also be taking subsequent steps toward making our state an example of excellence and innovation in education.
- The Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education has made a series of recommendations aimed at developing a public education system that Idaho can be proud of. The Task Force was made up of 31 members from a diverse cross-section of education stakeholders (including four members of the State Board of Education), many of whom put aside past differences to make recommendations that can benefit Idaho students. Governor Otter, major media outlets such as the Idaho Statesman and many organizations and individuals statewide have voiced their support for the Task Force recommendations. The expertise and intentions of those on the Task Force should merit serious examination of their recommendations, including (but not limited to) those related to funding.
- The Idaho State Board of Education itself has set an ambitious goal of having 60 percent of residents between the ages of 25-34 obtain a post-secondary degree or certificate by 2020. Without appropriate preparation in the K-12 pipeline, this objective is doomed to failure. K-12 and higher education both need adequate resources in order to achieve this goal and move Idaho forward.
- Idaho is beset with economic and employment issues, including too many low-wage jobs, an under-prepared workforce, and problems attracting/retaining businesses and corporations. It is not difficult to connect the dots between Idaho’s lack of commitment to public education and many of the challenges facing our state.
Aspiring to build a strong public education system in Idaho is an important and achievable goal, but it won’t happen without commitment and follow-through. Professional educators stand ready to do our part, as we have for generations of Idaho students. With all due respect, it is hard to fathom how the Idaho State Board can find it “acceptable” to bury its head in the sand and not make good on its responsibility to all the students, educators and citizens of Idaho.