The Idaho Legislature will begin debate on Superintendent of Public Education Tom Luna's radical reformation of the public school system in Idaho this week.
A final vote on the matter is expected some time next week. Unfortunately, it looks like it will pass, despite overwhelming objections from educators and many citizens of Idaho, in particular those with children in school.
Tonight, at 6:30 p.m. at the high school gym, a town meeting has been called to discuss the proposal. We urge you to attend and become better informed about what this means for our local district.
We also urge all citizens to let their legislators know where they stand on the issue, what elements they like and what elements they don't like.
Despite the momentum behind this poorly conceived proposal, which was dumped on the voters and the legislators without any warning and little or no input and debate, there is still a chance to amend the legislation.
We would suggest two significant amendments.
First, restore the support units to their previous levels, or as close as possible within the funding available, and essentially pass last year's budget.
Second, let's see if Luna's plan has any merit by taking some of the $24 million he is planning to use to buy laptops for every student and instead launch a pilot program to find out where the landmines really are.
We would suggest one district from each of the five high school classifications be selected (from districts that volunteer), because small districts and large districts have significantly different problems and circumstances.
A four-year pilot program would be best, to track students throughout their high school career. In fact, that tracking should probably be continued beyond high school to see what kinds of successes, or failures, students have from such a significant change in how public school students are taught.
If it works, great.
If it doesn't, then only a small number of students will have been impacted adversely -- as many people fear will happen. But at the very least, we would have some hard data with which we could then make an informed decision. Right now, everyone on both sides is just speculating on the consequences.
A pilot program could show that some of our concerns may not be valid, and some problems may pop up that we hadn't even considered, but at least we'd know what works and what doesn't.
We believe the current proposal is designed less to put students first, as it claims, than it is to solve a fiscal crisis in the state so the legislature won't have to bite the bullet and raise taxes.
The fiscal crisis is temporary. A radical change in education isn't.
We need to take this slowly, not rush into the unknown blindly.