In the wake of voters overturning Propositions 1, 2 and 3, Governor Butch Otter convened the Governor’s Task Force on Education to examine the current state of public education in Idaho and come to a consensus on recommendations for future reform. Almost simultaneously, the Idaho state legislature formed an Interim Committee to “undertake and complete a study of how to improve and strengthen Idaho’s K-12 system”. Here is a re-cap of the activities of both groups.
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Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr, along with IEA leaders Teresa Jackman (Pocatello), Brian Smith (Sandpoint) and Cindy Wilson (Boise) were part of a diverse group of 31 individuals selected to discuss and debate public education reform and ultimately make recommendations to Governor Otter. State Board of Education member Richard Westerberg chaired the Task Force, which had representation from teachers, parents, school board members, business leaders and others.
The IEA team helped the Task Force craft a list of 21 recommendations that were sent to the governor in a final report on September 6. Among the recommendations made by the task force were:
- Restoration of $82.5 million in operational funding that was cut in recent years due to the recession.
- Establishment of a career ladder program for teachers that would increase starting salaries to $40,000—escalating to $50,000-$60,000 for veteran teachers, based on performance.
- Transitioning to an enrollment-based funding model to replace the current average daily attendance method.
- Shifting to a mastery-based system from a seat time model for student advancement.
- Job embedded professional learning opportunities for educators.
- Encouraging a rigorous and successful implementation of the new Idaho Core Standards.
- Empowering local districts with sufficient autonomy.
- Adequate access to computing devices for students and teachers.
The final report of the Governor’s Task Force can be found online on the State Board of Education website at http://www.boardofed.idaho.gov/board_initiatives/education_improvement_taskforce/taskforce_jump.asp
The work of the Task Force was roundly praised for its thoroughness, diligence and scope. In addition, Governor Otter, key legislators and media outlets have lauded the collaborative work of the Task Force, noting that the diverse group was able to put past differences aside and generate recommendations that have the potential to bring about tangible public education reform in Idaho. The Idaho Statesman’s Editorial Board urged the Task Force remain together and continue to work with Governor Otter on implementation of the recommendations, which it called “a road map to a brighter education future”.
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The 10 member committee held the first of several meetings on September 12, 2013, and IEA President Penni Cyr was among those who addressed the group. She highlighted some of the challenges facing Idaho’s education leaders as well as pointing out some of the success stories of public education in Idaho.
Cyr stressed that the state needs to reinvest in public education after significant budget cuts in recent years and noted that teachers are leaving the state and/or the profession in historic numbers. She also noted that it is fairly easy to connect the dots between Idaho’s tepid commitment to education and major problems such as low wages, difficulty in attracting and retaining quality businesses, and smaller-than-desired numbers of Idaho children acquiring post-secondary degrees.
Governor’s Task Force Chairman Richard Westerberg, State Superintendent Tom Luna, and representatives from the Idaho Association of School Administrators and the Idaho School Boards Association also made presentations to the interim committee, with each of them voicing strong support of the Task Force recommendations.
The legislative interim committee will have additional meetings in the coming months to evaluate and streamline ideas to improve public education leading up to the 2014 legislative session. At their next meeting, set for October 4, the committee will examine the labor laws passed in the last legislative session. The committee is co-chaired by Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Couer d’Alene and House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMourdant, R-Eagle.