Is it okay to starve your children for a long time and then promise them that, if they are very good and don’t complain, they can have some candy?
Idaho has been keeping its schools on a starvation diet for years. Did you know that we rank last in the nation in the amount we allocate for each child’s education?
You may have seen some of the effects of years of limited funding: Districts cut back on transportation. Many districts moved to a four-day week. Cooks, janitors, bus drivers and aides lost 20% of their income. Schools scheduled all-day kindergarten every other day. One superintendent said they had removed half the light bulbs in the buildings. (Of course, then the public utilities commission granted a rate increase so no real savings were realized.) Citizens went to the polls to vote to increase their property taxes to keep local schools operating. And parents saw the list of “school supplies” grow and grow as more and more fees were added.
Schools in Idaho have been adding technology to their operations for many years. 20 years ago in Moscow, I was bringing computers into the classrooms and training teachers in their use. Children were becoming adept from kindergarten on. When I was superintendent, a virtual high school was established. The Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) could be accessed statewide and became very popular for credit recovery or advanced classes. In some very small rural districts, entire classes signed up if a teacher was not available for a certain discipline. It was monitored by and paid for by the participating districts and the on-line teachers were chosen for their excellence and trained to meet the demands of working in a virtual environment. Technology is now an integral part of education but it is recognized as a tool to be used appropriately and effectively by the classroom teacher. There is intent to reduce the money for IDLA in favor of for-profit companies. The C.E.O. of one for-profit school received a multi-million dollar bonus last year – that is how our tax dollars were used. They are also used to make political contributions to politicians who will work to benefit the on-line companies.
The Luna laws reduced the money schools received to hire teachers. (This amount has never been generous.) Did you know that Idaho does not allocate money for music, art, physical education, counselors, nurses, and librarians? Instead, a school is given an extra allocation once it has met the student count for ten classrooms. Then the district can decide what program to add – perhaps a class in test preparation? Loss of funding means teachers cannot be hired. School boards have already cut funding for all other programs – including building maintenance.
One intent of the Luna law is to have for-profit companies provide the curricula in our schools. The teacher hired by the company can be assigned hundreds of students and can be located anywhere in or out of the country. You will have no idea who your kids’ teachers are. If the student takes the class while at school, an aide can be hired to monitor student behavior for liability purposes, but not teach. Schools have tried to maintain services by increasing, even doubling, class size. I’ve heard tearful complaints from parents of 2nd graders whose children are in a room with 35 students. The parents fear that their children will not get needed attention and will struggle with reading for the rest of their lives. They need to be worried.
Because schools cut back on the time teachers spend with students, one award-winning teacher told me she is making $4,000.00 less per year. One teacher reported that her district could no longer afford its employee health insurance and she was having $1,200.00 per month removed from her paycheck to maintain her family’s insurance. Even so, those are not the primary concerns – the teachers are more upset because large class sizes and reduced time to prepare or evaluate lessons are exhausting an already demoralized workforce.
I’ve talked to deans at colleges of education, both private and public, and student enrollment in teacher education is much reduced. Young people can see that teaching is not a good career path. We are told not to worry – Idaho has made it possible for anyone with a college degree to teach. They just need to pass a basic skills test. That process removes the quality controls that our colleges have been trying to put into place to assure us that candidates have not just knowledge, but some expertise and the right disposition to be responsible for our children’s learning. We may get some good teachers from the alternate route but we have to be aware that anyone who cannot get a job or has been fired from their position can come to Idaho and our kids will teach them how to teach.
The attacks on teachers are unwarranted. Our students do remarkably well considering the low level of financial support the state provides for our K-12 and university systems. We need for more kids to get career training after high school but we are raising fees for higher education every year to make up for lack of state funding. Because Idaho ranks with the deep South in terms of our per-person income, we are a state plagued by poverty. That’s another reason to tend to basic needs before deciding to hand out gifts.
Here’s my suggestion: Our elected officials and legislators should determine how to provide adequate funding for basic education needs before deciding to hand out gifts of computers and bonuses. I’ve heard that over 80% of the students already have internet access at home. Merit pay is not a bad idea, but there is no credible plan in place. I won’t take your time to even discuss how that plan could happen. We can help our teachers know that we value their knowledge, expertise, and commitment to our kids by telling them so. We can tell the legislature that the laws known as Prop 1, 2, and 3 are hurting kids. A great deal of damage has already been done. We should pause, get rid of these laws, and try to do better.
- Dr. Marilyn Howard | Former Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction
I want to start this by saying I am a dedicated student. I am in the top 5% of my class and spend hours on homework every day. I am a perfectionist and spend a lot of time and energy making sure my work is complete and up to my standards of quality. I have taken three online classes as a way to get ahead, avoid a teacher I disliked, etc. and have struggled in all of them. The work is boring. The assignments are cookie-cutter at best and provoke little deep thought, and although the teachers try, there is no good way to connect with students. I was not motivated to do my work, stayed up late finishing assignments an hour before the deadline, and I never even learned any of my teachers’ names. I came away from every single one of these classes knowing almost nothing of what I was taught. The reason students don’t like the idea of requiring online classes has nothing to do with us not wanting to move forward and “embrace technology.” We don’t like this because the system doesn’t work for everyone. I have had an amazing experience at Boise High sitting at a real desk learning from a teacher who is only ten feet away from me. I have been inspired and motivated by these teachers more than I could ever be in an online class. No teacher who lives miles away and only checks his email once every two days can ever replace my 8th grade English teacher who had us build a model empire and wage war Machiavelli-style. No online textbook can ever replace the fire lab in chemistry. No online discussion board post can replace the discussion my friends and I had about the ethics of social experiments after our psychology class. As hard as they try, no online class will ever be able to make a connection to a student and keep them as motivated to learn as a real, in-the-flesh, living, breathing, passionate, dedicated classroom teacher can. Students shouldn’t be required to take classes in a system that does not work for them.
- Sarah Whelan | Boise, ID
Prior to moving to Idaho, I taught in a small town south of San Antonio, Texas. Our school district won an enormous grant from Apple which provided every high school student with a laptop, charger, and specialized backpack in which to carry them.
The program was an utter disaster.
Students mistreated their laptops and came to class with them uncharged. If they remembered to bring their charger, the classroom was crisscrossed with cords, making it difficult to walk around the room. Backpacks were destroyed and laptops were broken, lost, stolen, and pawned. When computers malfunctioned, students were left stranded, unable to access any work they had completed. Some students’ families could not afford internet service at home, so they were unable to complete homework assignments. When computers malfunctioned, there was often little we could do because the staff member responsible for maintaining the laptops was completely overwhelmed and unable to keep up with demand.
But the worst outcome was that students continually accessed inappropriate websites both at home and at school. And it wasn’t only our students. Other family members would use the laptops for their personal use. Pornography was rife. Anyone who thinks a firewall will prevent students from visiting prohibited sites is kidding themselves. I once walked into a classroom with a graphic pornographic image displayed on the wall (using a projector). The teacher was almost in tears. This is not the kind of classroom environment we want for our students.
In my own classroom, as I walked down the aisles to assist students with their work, I knew that students were off-task (usually playing video games), but I couldn’t prevent it because I couldn’t watch everyone’s screen at once.
The entire experience was upsetting and demoralizing. Based on my experience, I completely disagree with the plan to purchase laptops for students. Idaho schools already have more than enough computers available for student use.
- Anne-Marie Bebber | Garden City, ID
I am one of the many teachers that “migrated” from Idaho this year after 9 years of teaching there. Unfortunately, it became necessary to seek other options as a single-income earner with my salary both frozen and reduced over the past several years. If only the other expenses in my life like my mortgage, utility costs, credit card, and other bills would follow that same trend, there would be no problem!
A better quality of life was my goal in moving to Idaho in 2003. I had no secure job, but a desire to continue into my fifth year of teaching. I would like to thank the state for the wonderful training and support I received in my first years of teaching 4th and 8th grades (2nd grade and Kindergarten most recently). Ironically, it is this exact training in literacy and second language acquisition that made me an attractive candidate for the work I am now doing at an elementary school in Colorado.
I do not regret my decision to move to Idaho. My time there led to things like my master’s degree and a passion to work with students and teachers and to end the myth that this is a “get rich” career filled with bad teachers. We find ourselves in a situation where the problem is systemic. It requires an overhaul that is being addressed through the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, and service learning. This seems the better route rather than continuing to blame the many teachers who are truly doing their best to educate our children, yet are making less and less each year.
I thank “Vote No on Propositions 1,2,3″ for the opportunity to tell my story and get on the “soap box” for Idaho. I may have moved, but I will always support the students and teachers of Idaho. I will have mixed emotions when I remember my efforts to prepare Idaho’s children with the skills needed to meet the demands of careers they haven’t yet imagined.
- Eric Schmitz | Fort Collins, CO
I am voting NO on the mandatory on-line classes because it would further penalize my students with learning disabilities. A number of students don’t have internet at home so they would have to take a computer lab as an elective class in order to satisfy this credit. Many of these students are enrolled in trade classes (eg. welding, auto, construction, commercial art, etc.) which take two periods and they cannot fit another elective into their schedules. In my experience, on-line classes have been discouraged for all but the very brightest, most motivated students. Only a very small percentage of students will be successful and get a lasting benefit from these classes.
- Liz Barbee | Boise, ID
My daughter, Jennifer Martin, was the director of the Owyhee Watershed Council for 9 years. She went back to school and got her master’s in education while working full time. She took an $8,000.00 pay cut and started teaching in Homedale, Idaho in 2008-2009 at an annual salary of $32,000. She assumed that in a few years she would be back where she had been financially. Instead, after 4 years, she was making less than when she started.
In 2009 Jen wrote and received a Qwest grant that brought valuable technology into her classroom. She was also instrumental in starting a Junior National Honor Society at Homedale Middle School. She entered her students in The Future Cities Competition. They won the regional competition and she took 11 students to Washington, D.C. for the national competition. In 2010, Jennifer won the Governor’s Giant Award for Middle School Science Teacher.
In 2010-2011 her salary was cut to $29,650.
This year her pay was raised to $30,000, but sadly she decided she could no longer afford to teach. She took a job with DEQ and received a $15,000 raise plus much cheaper family insurance coverage.
I am heart sick that Idaho lost such a talented, caring teacher. Money isn’t everything, but having her own children qualify for free and reduced lunch because she chose to teach is criminal. Idaho should be ashamed of the way teachers in this state are being treated.
- Janie Ward-Engleking | Boise, ID
Teachers’ salaries are frozen, schools are reducing the number of days they are open, and all special programs are in jeopardy in order to meet the budget. There has been no talk of how local schools are supposed to pay for the Luna laws. Districts will have to cut more teachers, reduce hours, and close schools to meet these mandates. We just can’t afford it.
My mother lives in Maine, and Mr. Luna touts the laptop initiative in place there. The state contracted with Apple to buy 172,000 laptops for High School students and leases them out to schools. At one school, as reported by the Bangor Daily News, “(t)he school this year exceeded (its) budget by more than one-third for repairs. And the $56,000 tab doesn’t include the repairs covered by Apple’s warranty or paid for by students for intentional damage.” (Source)
Every time students are without a computer that needs repair, they either fall behind, or the class has to stop until computers are back. I encourage everyone to go online and read this article. Why would we get involved in this financial debacle when our state has no money? Why would we send the education money we do have out of state to computer companies and online learning institutions? That money won’t come back to our state. I have 3 children, and I cringe at the thought of their phenomenal high school teachers being replaced by virtual classes. I would prefer they spend less time on computers, not more.
- Kelly | Boise, ID
I am voting NO on the propositions for several reasons:
As a middle school science teacher, I have seen my work load and class size increase at the same time as my supply budget has become almost non-existent. The only aging equipment that can be replaced with the “latest and newest” are overhead projectors and computers, and that’s because of the mandate to replace technology with new equipment.
I went back to school to earn a Master’s degree but have yet to enjoy the benefit of a pay raise. Meanwhile, administrators are retiring as they see the writing on the wall and their positions are being left unfilled. That means those of us who want to be in administration to make changes cannot get those positions.
I also taught at an alternative high school, which offered online courses to give students the chance to make up for classes they had missed and to allow them to graduate on time. Students figured out how to cheat on assignments and “earn” a credit in a fraction of the time necessary for mastery. In the absence of strict supervision, they were able to game the system so they could “earn” credits in subjects that they had not real incentive or need to master.
This is the problem when we have politicians in charge of education. It also points to why educators need to be a part of determining how best to educate students. Too many politicians seem intent on running education like a business. Look at the amount of money donated to candidates by private education companies. The philosophy of a business is to maximize profits for its shareholders. Using that model, will schools start to reject the handicapped, the low achievers or the troubled students? This is another move toward a “haves” and “have nots ” society where the parents who can afford it will place their children in the best schools. Meanwhile the rest of the students will be relegated to the schools where less money is spent and where it’s a greater challenge to achieve the aim of our Founding Fathers of adequately educating the populace.
For these reasons and others, I will vote NO on Proposition 1, 2 and 3 in November.
- John Owens | Boise, ID
I arrived in Idaho in 2010, fresh out of one of Oregon’s top grad schools. I was so excited to have a job, I left everything to work in a rural Idaho high school. I worked at a relatively small school that taught students from miles around, and our staff was already on a skeleton crew. Despite this, we managed to provide programs like auto tech and agriculture, for the majority of our students enter these fields. The so-called Students Come First laws would have devastated our community. This year, when one of the laws went into effect, our only middle school was forced to close its doors, and the students will be taught in portable classrooms on a field at the high school. If it continues there will be no ag or art programs to speak of and class sizes will shoot into the 50′s. As for me, the prospect of being replaced with a laptop was more risk than I could bear. I packed up in 2011 and took my master- teacher-self to Utah where I am being paid fairly and have job security. I pray every day for my old students. At this rate, will there even be a school for them to go to in 5 years? Who will stand up for rural Idaho when all the teachers are laid off or move out of state? I can’t vote “no” but I hope Idaho does.
-Christina | Logan, UT
While traveling home from Washington D.C. I read a story in the Washington Post quoting a study done by Western Michingan University comparing on-line education (K-12) with charter schools and public schools in five state with on-line education requirements. K-12 trailed public schools and charter schools in all metrics including math and science. In short, on line education dismally failed.
Primary and secondary ed is about “formation” of the tools needed to succeed in this society. Post secondary education is about information, gathering information. VOTE NO ON THE LUNA LAWS. They may save money in the short term, but the long term is not worth it. Penny-wise and pound foolish they are.
-Kevin Burnett | Eagle, ID
I am a National Board Certified Teacher with 21 years of experience in the classroom who became a single mother of 3 children six years ago. I am now working part-time so I have time to take care of my children. I am voting NO because the technology “enhanced” classroom with online courses is a virtual recipe for failure for my 2 older children who have learning disabilities and attention difficulties. I am voting NO because my experience in teaching at-risk, marginalized, and underperforming students mirrors my experience with my own children. Too many teenagers are not ready for virtual classrooms and online learning. They are teenagers who still need the support and guidance of an adult mentor’s presence and immediate availability. They are aware of us. They do better when we are on the sidelines, ready to step in and coach at less than a moment’s notice if needed.
I am voting NO because these laws put a commodities-based model of employment in an institution that actually functions more like a family or community. We do not “non-renew” grandparents if they do not have enough grandchildren. We do not tell aunts and uncles that they are out of a job in October if their niece or nephew moved away in September. We do not require parents to have 6 children or move to a smaller home in order to increase the efficiency of scale within the family. We do not test children on how well they have learned family values and award bonuses to parents whose children seem to be better behaved and nicer than other children. But we will pay teachers based on test scores and the evaluations of parents who have not met them? We will have the same standards to measure the performance of teachers who teach kindergarten and who teach AP Calculus? The system we had wasn’t perfect, but it recognized some of our most important American values: persistence and staying with a profession that can be as difficult as it is rewarding. Parents don’t walk out when parenting becomes more challenging- they get help, take classes, take advice, and hone their skills. Teachers do the same. Experience matters. Wisdom matters. Teachers matter. What doesn’t matter is how many students they teach, what kind of students they teach, what subject they teach, or where they teach. We teach. We care. We give our best.
-Lynn Briggs | Emmett, ID
I agree with Sonia the 5th grade teacher from Nampa. This is my fifth year teaching and the last year I have spent money out of my pocket to meet the needs of my students. I am not complaining about this expense one bit if I am able to effectively educate and help students in my classroom.
I know that there is a right way and a wrong way to bring technology into the classroom. It is my belief that students still need a teacher to support and guide them through the curriculum. While I know that there are many success stories about the use of technology in the classroom, I have recently posted several articles on my Facebook page about the lack of success of students engaged in the online learning progress. It appears that while achievement scores decrease, salaries for lobbyists, administrators, and developers of these programs continue to increase. We cannot afford to sacrifice the quality of education of our children to these types of programs.
I had a student who through no fault of his was referred to the special ed program that I was teaching. This student had missed several days due largely to a health impairment. Because of absences accrued the parents chose to enroll their student in an online program. I need to add that this was a kindergarten student. Needless to say, the student lacked the necessary skills to be successful in this setting. While this seems to be an extreme case, my question would be how many other students will fall in this category and eventually “fall through the cracks” of our education system?
- Danielle | Rigby, ID
Online courses provide a good option for some students, especially when a class requirement or elective cannot be met by the district. However, mandating online courses for all students regardless of their learning style, language proficiency, educational needs and motivation level is irresponsible.
Last summer my husband and I had our two oldest boys take an online class to allow more opportunity in their schedules. It was a tremendous challenge to just keep my boys seated at the computer with all of the distractions our home environment provides. It gave me a much greater appreciation for a classroom and hall passes. I had not anticipated the additional money we would spend beyond the cost of the course. We had to upgrade our computer due to the large amount of material that needed to be downloaded. We paid to add stronger parental controls due to the amount of time they needed to spend on the computer and their propensity to distract themselves with game sites. We found it necessary to hire a tutor for the son where coursework online did not meet his learning style. In the end, we made a difficult decision. After spending their summer doing the online class, both boys withdrew and took their course in the classroom.
There’s a right way to bring technology into the classroom, and there’s a wrong way. The laws authored by Superintendent Luna and approved by the legislature are the wrong way to go. Proposition 3 imposes a one-size-fits-all mandate on our schools that hurts our students and diminishes the quality of education.
- Maria Greeley | Boise, ID
This is how the factory-school model works, churning out sameness, each product looking and acting just like the other. The factory model kills creativity and innovation. We don’t want our children to look and act the same. We want our children’s talents to be recognized and magnified. The state can’t treat our schools like factories AND pretend to care about the development of our children at the same time. The state wants our children to be taught how to take a test rather than taught how to think. If you have a child with learning disabilities or your child habla otra idioma then under Luna’s law, it is not in a teacher’s best interest to have your child in their class, or in their school for that matter.
Let’s ignore the manufactured crisis created by Superintendent Luna and his faction. Schools are not factories. My kids are real people. I say let schools be schools, not money-making ventures.
- Josi Christensen | Paul, ID
As I sat at the negotiating table this past school year, the arbitrary limitations imposed on our conversations were disheartening. To assume that teachers need no other right than to bargain for salary and benefits truly speaks to how little our State Superintendent and the majority of our Legislature know about what we do and what it takes to provide the best education to our students. Classroom size, whether my students get access to music and PE, and what the calendar year looks like used to be negotiable. Each of these issues affects the ability of my students to learn. It is offensive on every level to restrict my ability to advocate for better learning opportunities for my students and better working conditions for my fellow teachers.
- Sonia Galaviz | Nampa, ID
Our children’s future is at stake. We need your help to overturn these expensive top-down mandates.
Vote NO on Propositions 1,2,3
1020 Main Street
Boise, ID 83702
P.O. Box 163
Boise, ID 83701
Office phone: (208) 955-8202
October 31, 2012 For Immediate Release . Contact: Mike...