On the Idaho Education Association’s 130th anniversary today, we wanted to get the perspective of Jim Shackleford, a former long-time IEA executive director of IEA (1992-2008) and patriarch of the modern IEA, about the milestone’s significance. Here’s what he had to say:
Why is 130 years of the IEA important?
The significance of the actions that the IEA has taken on behalf of public education and educators over the years cannot be overstated. We’ve consistently advocated for better funding for schools and educators, helped raise the professional levels and standards of the teaching profession, and engaged with communities all over the state in that work.
The IEA provides a very important voice on education issues. It’s a very well-respected and sometimes loud voice that reminds policymakers that public education is a cornerstone of our democracy.
We work on certification standards, rewriting formulas for state funding of education, ensuring that teachers and school employees have a place at the negotiations table with their school districts. We work on the part of teaching that’s outside of the classroom – the policies and training that impact a teacher’s ability to do their job – so that they can focus on what they do best, which is teaching Idaho’s students. It’s a commitment to public education that joins us together.
What is the IEA’s most important accomplishment?
The reading of the history of the IEA runs parallel to the evolution of public education throughout the history of this state, so it’s hard to point to any single thing as its most important accomplishment.
Perhaps in modern times, repealing the ‘Luna Laws’ stands out as an example of what can be done when teachers across the state put their hearts and minds into an issue. That was a huge moment not only for public education in Idaho but also for the IEA and its place as a force in Idaho politics.
Does any particular moment from your time at the IEA stand out in your memory?
In the early 80s, there were a number of political rallies held at the state capitol where teachers, administrators, parents, and other supporters of education came together to advocate for better funding of our schools.
I remember the feeling of pride as I stood on the capitol steps and looked out over the array of people who gave up their time and workdays to be there and help make public education better. You get a wonderful feeling and tears come to your eyes when you see a group of thousands of people in front of the capitol who are so dedicated to doing the right thing for public schools.
Interestingly, advocacy for better state funding for education was one of the reasons the IEA was founded in the first place. Throughout its history, the IEA has taken on many education issues, but funding has remained a core cause for the IEA’s member educators. It remains so today.
How do you think the years of the COVID-19 pandemic stack up against the previous 128 years?
I think it’s easy to say that this has not only been an unusual time for education but perhaps the most unusual time in the IEA’s history. Clearly, there were other key milestones through the decades — the two world wars, for example. But to hear and read the heartbreaking stories of how this pandemic has taken a toll on Idaho’s teachers and students leaves little question that we’re witnessing one of the most extraordinary and trying times in the teaching profession’s history.
Why should Idaho educators be proud of the IEA?
In our work at the IEA, that question comes up every day. When you become an educator, you accept a job not only for yourself but also for your students, your community, and your community of educators. You commit to the responsibility to make our profession the best it can possibly be. The IEA’s members have been doing that for 130 years.