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Reader Comment: Idaho Board of Ed: There are only 374 great teachers in the Gem State

Idaho’s State Board of Education finally released recommendations for determining Jedi quality master teachers last week. The report concludes that only 374 teachers in Idaho will qualify for the Master Educator distinction out of an eligible pool of 18,710 educators in Idaho.

This outcome seems to be an outright contradiction to the original intention of establishing a master teacher program, which was designed to push many veteran educators closer to the original top salary level proposed during the tiered licensure debate. In fact, the requirements to receive the Jedi distinction from Padawan colleagues is so onerous that the truly excellent teachers will likely spend their already strapped time on their classroom instead of completing yet another pile of paperwork mandated by the state.

The report issued by the State Board of Ed requires that educators seeking their black-belt to develop a comprehensive portfolio which includes artifacts, a narrative explaining each artifact, and tedious explanations of how each artifact is tied to a plethora of categories in the evaluation rubric.

In fact, the framework supplied by the state from the portfolio cover page to the rubric for the last standard is an overwhelming 26 pages all by itself. That is 26 blank pages already without the teacher’s artifacts, writeup of each artifact, narrative of how each artifact ties to specific standards, etc. Teacher portfolios will resemble the bricks of paper known as closing documents when purchasing a home by the time they are completed.

Which completely defeats the point. The purpose of this master educator program was to reward teachers for the excellent work many educators are already performing in the state. It was not designed to punitively punish educators who already put every spare moment of their time into their classrooms. The application process, however, wants another pound of flesh from teachers already worked to the bone.

The payout for countless hours putting together the comprehensive portfolio that an educator might be eligible to receive after investing significant time that would have been better utilized in professional development or curriculum planning? $4,000.

That’s not an insignificant sum. But it’s not a guaranteed payout either. And for educators looking to increase their compensation it is much more likely they will take a summer or part-time gig of guaranteed wages rather than tempting fate with mountains of paperwork for a check that they might be found eligible for.

Most teachers I talk to about the criteria are so frustrated and angry about the significant requirements that they have already stated their intention to not develop a portfolio or apply for the distinction. That, unfortunately, includes the bulk of educators I would truly call Jedi Master quality teachers.

It appears that the intent in developing this onerous process was precisely to deter eligible candidates from applying. Out of an eligible pool 18,710 candidates the report forecasts that just 374 educators, or an astonishingly small 2 percent of the population, will qualify for this distinction. That shockingly small number comes from a deliberate calculation to make the process so overwhelming as to hang up a sign that reads “need not apply” for the bulk of Idaho’s teachers.

So congratulations educators in Idaho. The State Board thinks that only 2 percent of you are excellent enough to receive your Jedi distinction. Clearly, this is yet another reason why qualified talent is moving in droves to teach the children in the Gem State.

Oh, wait...

Letter: Why I'm running for Congress

Why do so many judges and prosecutors say to save our kids and cops, end all prohibition now?

Because the law of supply and demand is the only law that won't be broken!

Please listen to the Police Captain Christ on video at for just five minutes.

To save kids and cops, end all prohibition now!

All of God's gifts can be used or abused with the free will he gave us.

The forbidden fruit approach that teaches pleasure is a sin is your right to teach. It is not working, is it?

Some kids are so uneducated they drink 21 drinks on their 21st birthday and die of alcohol poisoning. Just because the numbers match!

Medical science says people who drink daily in moderation usually live longer with less Alzheimer's Disease. Some kids don't even know the difference between meth and beer.

Please see my video of Dr. Gupta show the real people cannabis has blessed after mainstream pain pills had failed and nearly killed.

He also shows real harm to young people can do to themselves. All kids should know it pays to wait.

When God blessed Idaho there was no man-made plutonium over our water.

Your politicians want to move plutonium experiments here so they faked the clean up. All never meant all. On my website you can see official documents. They left 90 percent of the plutonium buried in a flood zone. Documents on nuclear power reveal flaws that could lead to "catastrophic failure." Gov. Perry finally admitted cyber terrorist attack nuclear power plants daily!

I am running for Congress to stop this insanity. It's not about me. It's about us. All of us.

Dr. Peter Rickards

Twin Falls

Other View: There's stuff to like in the Republican tax plan

With the presidency and both houses of Congress in their grasp, Republicans have a rare opportunity to make policy reforms. So far, nothing major has been done. On health care, the GOP failed to advance legislation. Now attention is turning to tax reform. Let’s hope the fact that taxes aren’t as much of a hot-button issue as health care will lead to something getting done, because the Republican plan contains some pretty sensible stuff.

When most people think about taxes, they think about what economists refer to as distribution — who pays more, who pays less and who reaps the benefits. Distribution is obviously incredibly important, but economists generally feel uncomfortable weighing in on it, because there’s a moral element to deciding who should get what. Instead of taking sides, they like to focus on efficiency — growing the pie so that politicians have more to distribute in the first place.

In terms of efficiency, income tax cuts have been a bust in recent decades, both at the federal and the state level. Shifting the tax burden from the middle and working class to the rich — perhaps through payroll-tax cuts coupled with income tax hikes — would probably have a more noticeable effect on growth. Interestingly, various GOP plans would reportedly eliminate state income tax deductibility and mostly eliminate the carried interest tax break, both of which would represent tax hikes for the wealthy. But so far there’s no talk of cutting payroll taxes, which would be a good way to ease the burden on the middle and working classes.

More important than income taxes would be corporate tax reform. Fortunately, that’s exactly what’s now on the table. Politico’s Nancy Cook reports on some of the changes under consideration, and most look pretty good.

One item is corporate tax cuts. This might make some liberals angry, because corporations seem like big faceless entities owned by rich people, and therefore deserving of high taxation. But there are much better ways to tax the rich. The main reason corporate taxes are so inefficient is that companies are really good at finding ways around them. The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent, but the actual amount of profit that makes its way into government coffers is more like 25 percent:

The Republican proposal would reportedly cut the rate to between 22 percent and 25 percent. If paired with loophole closures, that wouldn’t bring down revenue too much. And it would save companies a lot of money on legal tax avoidance. It might even provide an incentive for U.S. companies to stop relocating their headquarters offshore to lower-tax countries, or stop holding so much cash overseas. Overall, a corporate tax cut would encourage investment, increasing growth a bit.

Another good idea in the GOP plan is to make interest payments taxable. This would have to be phased in slowly, to avoid making heavily indebted businesses go bankrupt all at once. And some businesses’ debts would probably have to be grandfathered in for the same reason. But making interest taxable would give companies an incentive to finance themselves more with equity and less with debt, making the economy more stable. It would also close an important loophole in the corporate tax, offsetting some of the revenue losses from the lower statutory rate.

A third good idea is full expensing of capital investments for small businesses. This policy is similar to accelerated depreciation, which allows businesses to get tax breaks on their investments sooner. Accelerated depreciation has been shown to capital spending, so full expensing should do the same. Though this would represent an expanded loophole in the tax code, the chance to raise business investment is worth it. Targeting the tax break toward small businesses — if this could be done without big companies starting their own small companies to game the system — would help new entrants break into existing industries at a time when established players are becoming more concentrated and startup rates are falling.

Other Republican proposals also look like they could be good for growth — for example, eliminating the mortgage-interest tax deduction. As my Bloomberg View colleague Justin Fox points out, this tax break flows mostly to the upper-middle class. But cutting it would also decrease the incentive to buy a house. More renters could mean more geographic mobility, making it easier for them to move to places with faster job growth. Americans have noticeably stopped moving around the country in recent years:

Interstate moves have also fallen. Though mobility has gone down for renters as well, they’re still much more likely to relocate than homeowners. Eliminating the mortgage-interest deduction could therefore help America get moving again.

So there’s much to like in the wonky GOP tax plan. But we also have to acknowledge political reality: It seems unlikely that much, if any, of this will ever become law. Ending the mortgage-interest deduction, state income-tax deductions, and the carried-interest tax break would all take money away from the well-off — a traditional Republican constituency, not to mention the source of lots of GOP campaign donations. And many powerful and well-connected companies will fight to keep interest payments tax deductible. Meanwhile, Democrats will probably oppose any effort to lower the corporate income tax.

So economists shouldn’t celebrate yet. They may care about growth, but in the real world, politics rules the day.