The Rockin Johnny B

Friday, November 16, 2012

Different approach needed for ed reform

Luna must work together with teachers, parents and industry to forge plan that can improve education with limited resources

The IPT has it correct this time.  Mr. Luna-tick needs to get the approval of more than himself before he tries to foist his agenda on teachers and children of our state.  He's not a feudal king of the education system, he's an elected official and he needs to get that through his thick head.  The people have resoundingly spoken.  Listen up Luna.

Some pundits were predicting Propositions 1,2 and 3 — Idaho’s Students Come First education ballot initiatives — might not get support from a majority of voters last week. But few could have predicted how badly they’d fail.

The reasons are open for debate. Some voters may have rejected them simply because they were wildly unpopular with teachers, whom they respect immensely. Some might have had a bitter taste in their mouths over the way Superintendent Tom Luna went about getting the various components enacted. Others likely worried about the costs — especially with Proposition 3, which was trounced.     

Sometimes voters send conflicting messages. For example, polls consistently show support for spending more on education, but they also show a majority of voters don’t want their taxes raised.     

And the same voters who decisively rejected the three propositions — including those in Canyon County — also voted to return virtually all of the legislators who enacted them. Two local candidates who made opposition to the laws their central platform — Travis Manning and Clayton Trehal — both lost.     

Make of that what you will. But after you’ve debated the whys and hows, we still have kids to educate, and even many vocal opponents of Students Come First agree that it’s time to change the way we do it. Idaho is holding its own on test scores nationally, but that’s nothing to brag on. For all the money it spends, the United States is mediocre at best compared to much of the rest of the world.     

Luna is already talking about asking the Legislature to approve some sort of merit pay plan. He needs to take a time out.    Much of the animosity two years ago came from the way he rolled out his major reform plan — right after he was re-elected, with no warning and little collaborative input from the major stakeholders. Those, of course, would be teachers. It’s bad form to be seen as being dismissive of them. Most work very hard for modest compensation and are highly respected.     

Before he goes to the Legislature this winter with any more proposals, Luna needs to bring all sides to the table and come up with a plan that can draw broad support from everyone — business and industry, parents — and yes, the teacher’s union. That means educators and their representatives need to acknowledge the status quo isn’t good enough anymore. They have to offer more of plan than “give us more money.” They need to acknowledge the fact that we have to improve our product with the funding we have.    Both sides must be willing to bury the animosity and political posturing and find a way to compromise. That may be rare in today’s “us vs. them” world, but it must happen.     

Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Kim Keller, Carlos Soriano and Ken Pieksma.

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