This Friday, Feb. 1, the state House and Senate education committees will hold a "listening hearing" -- a rare chance for the public to actually comment on and recommend proposed legislation for education.
This should be a good move, considering several key legislative committees have decided this year to not open their deliberations up for public comment (they actually got some last time around, but since it wasn't what they wanted they decided it was better to not hear the public than be in a position where they had to ignore it).
House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt said he wants to invite everyone to share their thoughts on improving Idaho's public schools.
Our House and Sentate leaders will give "everyone" 2.5 hours -- from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., total -- to offer their solutions. Speak fast.
Meanwhile, the governor learned a lesson and decided to put together a task force to come up with ways to improve education, but it isn't going to be rushed (which is good). Its recommendations will go before next year's legislature.
And two years after it probably should have done it, the Idaho Education Association has put forward its blueprint to move education forward. Probably 80 percent of it has considerable merit. We urge you to go to the IEA website and look up the considerable details. In some areas it might be a little heavy on "ed speak" jargon, but most people can get past that to the basic ideas, and at least it's a plan put together by experts in the field (unlike our legislators, some of whom never even graduated from high school -- no joke).
The legislature and the current superintendent have done their very best to break the public school system, yet it's managed to hang in there, even as the cream of the student crop was skimmed off for the taxpayer-supported virtually private (charter) schools where students enjoy low student-to-teacher ratios. Meanwhile the legislature drove up the student-to-teacher ratios for public schools with massive funding cuts that forced districts to cut back on the number of teachers they could pay.
In the end, no matter what whistles and bells get conjured up for "education reform," the one thing that really makes the difference is a low student-to-teacher ratio, which gives teachers a chance to spend more time working with children who are struggling. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We need more teachers. It's that simple. Nothing would create a fix faster than replacing, and adding to, the teachers we lost in the classrooms over the last 3-4 years.
Get those class sizes down again, then we can talk about all the other whistles and bells.
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True story: In Twin Falls, a man broke into another man's home and attacked him with a ratchet. The homeowner drove off the attacker with a screwdriver.
Obviously, to make the world safer, we need fewer ratchets and more screwdrivers. Maybe we should make every teacher have a screwdriver in their desk (after proper training, of course). Then, when there's a loose nut and a ratchet....
-- Kelly Everitt