Facts. You can’t argue with facts. John Adams, second President of the United States and co-author of the Declaration of Independence is quoted as saying, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” So it is time that the facts surrounding Idaho’s seemingly never-ending changes to public education system are brought to light.
It is important to first state the obvious: there are free-market forces at play here. When a school district in Idaho pays more, provides better benefits, and gives more professional respect to its teachers, that school district will attract more and better teachers as compared to another school district that does not. Thus, to a certain extent, school districts in Idaho compete for the best teachers. Likewise, Idaho competes with its sister-states for the best school teachers. If, for example, Wyoming or Washington pay higher wages, provide better benefits, and give more professional respect to its teachers, then free-market forces will cause more and better teachers to gravitate toward those states over working in Idaho. (See e.g., Districts Struggle to Attract and Retain Qualified Teachers, Dr. Geoff Thomas, Madison School District Superintendent, IdahoEdNews.org, April 18, 2014).
The proposed Tiered Certification rule is another example of the bureaucratic interference and disrespecting of teachers that has led to a toxic environment for professional educators in Idaho. Linking a teacher’s certification to local evaluations and the rest of the poorly conceived components of this rule are likely be a significant deterrent to Idaho’s ability to attract and retain quality teachers—at a time when we cannot afford to be alienating professional educators.
Now for the stubborn facts. Idaho is reaping from the ill-conceived seeds that were sown over the last four years. And it is not pretty.
First, teachers are leaving Idaho, and the profession. According to the Idaho State Department of Education, the total number of certificated teachers in Idaho has dropped by 1,259 teachers in last 6 years. The number of students in Idaho schools, however, has increased by 14,481. (National Center for Education Statistics) The number of students has increased about 5%, while the number of teachers has dropped by 7%. Not a good trend!
If there is any doubt on why teachers started leaving the profession, consider the graph below (From the Idaho State Department of Education) and ask yourself, “What changed in Idaho public education in 2011?” If you are thinking the failed and ironically titled “Students Come First” legislation, you’re not alone. In the 2009-2010 school year Idaho had its lowest number of teachers leaving the profession. That number increased 236% in the two years following the Luna laws, resulting in historic numbers of teacher’s leaving the profession.
The funding of education in Idaho also plays a big part in this analysis. Consider the per pupil spending in Idaho. As reported by IdahoEdNews.org, the U.S. Census Bureau looks at two key metrics in determining education funding: revenue (how much the state brings in) and spending (how much the state spends). On the spending side, well . . . we beat Utah! Idaho per-pupil spending is $6,659, where Utah is $6,206 per pupil; both states provide far below the national average of $10,608. On the revenue side, Idaho is ranked No. 51, dead last, at $7,405 per pupil, where the national average is $12,331 per pupil. But watch out Utah, we have your number!
There can be no argument that teachers have been leaving the profession in Idaho in record numbers as the continual barrage of “reforms” are introduced year after year, and the anaconda squeeze of educator funding continues.
But that’s not all . . .
The facts are that educators are no longer seeing Idaho as a place to come teach. The free market forces are not only driving teachers away from Idaho, they are also dissuading teachers from coming here in the first place. Take, for example, the number of Idahoans applying to get a teaching certificate in Idaho. That number has historically hovered around 1,100 a year, but in the 2013-2014 school year it dropped to 866, a 27% decrease from 2007.
An even more ‘wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee’ statistic is the number of teachers from outside Idaho who are applying to obtain an Idaho teaching certificate. That number has gone from 898 teachers in 2007 to only 68 teachers in 2013. Great communities and scenic landscapes can only go so far.
These are indeed terrible facts to face. But they are the facts. . When other states are offering higher wages, better working conditions, and professional respect, Idaho is throwing up yet another iteration of the failed “Students Come First” initiatives by way of the proposed Tiered Certification rule. Instead of making Idaho more attractive to the best and the brightest, another bureaucratic disincentive is being formulated and ramrodded through. It is time to stop this.
We encourage Idaho citizens to join us in urging the State Board of Education to revisit Tiered Certification. E-mail comments can be sent to Tracie.Bent@osbe.idaho.gov. The third and final public hearing on the proposed Tiered Certification rule is Tuesday, October 21 at Mountain View High School in Meridian.