Now that Idaho voters have rejected all three pieces of legislation known by the colloquial title Students Come First, we hope Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Republican state legislators have gotten the message — and that they’re ready to take a different approach. We hope they will now ask all stakeholders — including teachers — what real education “reform” should look like.
Yesterday’s results will have the Department of Education, state legislators, local school boards, teachers and parents asking, “What’s next?” But while they’re all trying to unravel portions of the Luna laws already enacted, we urge a slower, more educationally sound and less politically expedient discussion ensue before future laws affecting state students are proposed.
We congratulate Idaho voters for recognizing that teachers deserve the right to sit across the table from their school district employers and negotiate on a broad range of issues until they reach an agreement.
Contrary to comments made by proponents of Proposition 1, teachers are well aware that school districts have less money than they did five years ago.
Teachers have been willing to make the sacrifices needed in these tough times: greatly increased class sizes and furlough days among them.
Instead of being given the gratitude they deserved, teachers became political footballs in a way that should never be acceptable. Teachers are not a group that we need to protect ourselves against, and voters stemmed the tide in the recent assault on public employees.
It also turns out that Idaho voters didn’t like the concept of merit pay for teachers any more than state teachers did. That’s good. The multiple criteria used for determining which districts and which teachers qualified for the “incentive pay” were just too convoluted to ensure a direct correlation would exist between merit pay and either the behavior or the results that it was supposed to reward.
The bigger issue of making state teacher compensation competitive enough to retain good teachers went completely unaddressed by Luna’s merit pay plan, and the reliance on standardized test results as a measuring stick was just too much like the federal No Child Left Behind legislation that we just recently escaped. When the new Legislature is seated in January, addressing teacher pay needs to be a priority.
Technology is good. Larger class sizes, four-day school weeks and leased laptops for all students, not so much. Idaho voters rightly determined there wasn’t enough to like about mandating laptops and online courses. Or maybe it just came down to not wanting the state telling local school districts what to do and how to do it. Idahoans rightly value local autonomy, and voters’ rejection of Proposition Three is solid evidence that we don’t want the State Department of Education usurping the authority of locally-elected boards of education.
Tuesday was a good day for public education in the state of Idaho, a day in which voters decided to put students — and their teachers — first.