Time for public to have a say on reform

Gov. Otter’s Task Force For Improving Education has done its initial legwork. Now it’s time for you to have a say in how Idaho’s public schools are run.

The state Board of Education, which oversees the task force, has scheduled seven public meetings all over the state this month, beginning tomorrow night (April 10) in Nampa.

They will primarily be listening sessions to allow people to share their ideas for how to improve the state public schools. Members of the task force will be at each meeting; members of the public will be able to speak and/or submit comments.

The schedule of public meetings is:

  • Wednesday, April 10, 6:30 p.m. Nampa High School Little Theatre, 203 Lake Lowell, Nampa.
  • Thursday, April 11, 6:30 p.m. O’Leary Middle School auditorium, 2350 Elizabeth Blvd., Twin Falls.
  • Monday, April 15, 6:30 p.m. Meriwether Lewis Hall (MLH) Room 100, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston.
  • Tuesday, April 16, 6:30 p.m. Lake Coeur d’Alene Room, North Idaho College Student Union Building, Coeur d’Alene.
  • Monday, April 22, 6:30 p.m. Tingey Auditorium, University Place, 1776 Science Center Drive, Idaho Falls.
  • Tuesday, April 23, 6:30 p.m. Century High School, 7801 W. Diamondback Dr., Pocatello.
  • Thursday, April 25, 6:30 p.m. Lincoln Auditorium, Idaho Capitol Building, 700 W. Jefferson, Boise.

We don’t know yet what will emerge from the 31 members of the task force. Following these public meetings, the group will meet several more times before the end of the year to review public input on the ideas we have already crafted within the task force and revise them before we offer final recommendations.

Some ideas floated by the task force include:

  • Funding school districts based on enrollment rather than attendance;
  • Establishing stable funding for school districts;
  • Addressing the challenge many districts face of recruiting and retaining teachers;
  • Developing and fully funding a new salary model for certificated, classified, and administrative school staff;
  •  Improving efficiencies across the state with less reliance on supplemental levies;
  • Improving effectiveness of teachers, administrators, and local school boards;
  • Eliminating grade levels and advancing students based on mastery;
  • Questions of local control and holding districts accountable for improving student achievement;
  • Increasing early-childhood education in Idaho, which data strongly suggests is the most effective investment we can make in schools, our children, and society;
  • And a primary focus of educators around the country today, implementing the Common Core State Standards.

A key question the task force has brought up and which will likely be a focus of public comments: What is the basic amount of funding needed to adequately educate a student in Idaho? With Idaho just about at the bottom nationally in per-pupil spending, that’s a question that deserves an honest discussion.

Many of us have strongly disagreed with the direction our political leaders have tried to take Idaho’s schools over the past few years. Some of them appear to remain steadfast in pursuing an agenda that voters have already shot down.

We need people to speak up and demand that the politicians listen to the public. These public meetings are your chance to tell the people who will help shape the future of the state’s schools what we should do. PLEASE attend at least one of these public meetings and offer your ideas.

A list of the initial strategies and recommendations being considered by the Task Force as well as questions for the public’s input are available on the State Board’s website.

The community forums in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls and Boise will be streamed on the web by Idaho Public Television.

Those not able to attend one of the forums can provide feedback and comments via email.

 

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