For the seventh time in the past 21 years, I have my name on the November ballot to represent the citizens of Twin Falls, this time for a second term as an Idaho State Representative for District 24A.
You often hear that people run for re-election because they still have work to do, and that is no different for me. I have served on three committees in the Idaho House of Representatives: Local Government, Business, and Education. They each offer challenges and have importance to so many people. However, the most important work, that is being carried forward, is in Education.
The Idaho economy has been improving; an enormous aging baby boomer population is retiring and leaving a teacher shortage. We have an opportunity to make a real change by following the nearly unanimous recommendations of the Task Force for Improving Education. I see an opportunity to make significant improvement in the teacher funding over the next five fiscal years. However, if the stakeholders do not come together, all we will have is rhetoric outside the classroom and fewer teachers in the classroom.
We baby boomers filled the classrooms, first as students then as teachers. Now we are faced with a generation that is much smaller in numbers to replace the retiring teachers. As long as there are higher paying entry-level opportunities outside of education, it will be difficult to attract sufficient numbers of teachers to an important profession. Simple economics is at play. Economics is about allocating scarce resources through a free market of supply and demand. We have a decreasing supply, which puts demand on the price to attract and retain teachers.
Much of the supply decrease is simply the small size of Generation X that is replacing the baby boomers, as well as the time needed for the Millennium Generation to fill the gap. However, to make the investment, it will take some changes in the way we have appropriated funding. In the past, the state appropriated funding for teacher salaries based upon a table of annual steps and continuing education. Teachers with the same number of years and equal education were funded at the same level. This system has failed in several ways, and partly due to the establishment and rapid advance of a minimum salary. This has created a salary dead zone for new teachers. We need to fix this.
The Task Force recommended enhancing the licensure process to reward teachers as they progress with teaching proficiency and student academic growth. I have a few reservations about the current proposed rule, but I have a greater reservation that a rejection of the rule will delay an important investment in Idaho’s future. It has taken two years of work by several committees of teachers, administrators, parents, business leaders and elected officials to reach a point of consensus. How much longer shall we wait to have unanimity?
My personal goal is to find a way to make this happen and keep all the stakeholders at the table. No one group will be totally pleased, but we can establish a model to move forward. As they say, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Nor should we abandon the progress made by so many dedicated citizens. I ask for your support on November 4th. While there are many other demands on a legislator, I pledge to continue my work to see this through to a positive outcome; positive for our children, our economy, our teachers and the taxpayer. We can do this.