Like a pebble tossed into a pond, the discussion started at Friday's historic meeting of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee continued to ripple across Idaho over the weekend. Superintendent Luna's far-reaching plan continues to receive mixed reviews from the general public and from legislators.
The public will have two more opportunities to weigh in this week, as Mr. Luna will appear from 9 to 10 a.m. Mountain Time tomorrow on Eastern Idaho radio station KID 590 (also available online here). On Thursday night, he'll be on Idaho Public Television's Dialogue show. You can ask a question in advance via an email to email@example.com, post it on the show's Facebook page, or try and call in during the show. (We'll remind you later this week.)
In the Idaho Press-Tribune on Saturday, many legislators reported that though are generally supportive of the superintendent's plan, they have a bit of homework to do before they will be ready to support or
oppose his proposals. Legislators also said they need to hear more from the public, including educators.
“I think he has a lot of good ideas. The concern that the teachers have is the unknown so there’s a lot of questions,” said Sen. Melinda Smyser (R-Parma). Added Sen. John McGee (R-Caldwell), “The superintendent’s proposal is major reform, and so I’m not surprised that people have a lot of questions and concerns. Part of this process is having those concerns answered.”
A related article (at the same link above) also included reaction from many educators, noting that teachers at Friday's hearing spoke overwhelmingly against the plan.
Tim Whitaker teaches seventh-grade life science at Lone Star Middle School in Nampa. He has taught for 18 years. He said the name of Luna’s plan, Students Come First, is a slap in the face to teachers. He and other teachers said students always come first with them and they wouldn’t be teachers if students didn’t come first.
“The title is really insulting to teachers,” (Caldwell teacher Melyssa) Ferro said.
Said Whitaker: “When I hear ‘students first,’ it’s almost ‘teachers last.’ It makes no sense. We (students and teachers) are in the same boat.”
A Lewiston Tribune article reported on educators from North Central Idaho who made the trip:
Orofino educator Pam Danielson spoke for many when she emphasized the need for daily interaction between teachers and students, as opposed to the sterile environment of the online courses Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna wants to promote.
“Education isn't about filling a bucket,” Danielson said. “It's about lighting a fire; that's very difficult to do with a laptop.”
Former Lewiston City Councilor Carol Wallace, a community resource worker and homeless coordinator for the Lewiston School District, said 60 percent of the 400-plus kids she works with live below the federal poverty level.
The way to move them out of “generational poverty,” she said, is through education and positive relationships.
“More often than not, those relationships are with the child's teacher – they provide a listening ear and consistent love. That can't be replicated online,” Wallace said.
Most of the state's newspapers have weighed in on the plan as well, and the Idaho Statesman printed a roundup of editorials today.
We're waiting for actual legislation to hit the Statehouse. Meanwhile, don't forget to email or call your lawmakers to offer your views on the Luna plan. Be specific about the parts that you oppose and why they're bad for teachers and students.