Stakeholders Start Talks To Improve Idaho's Education System
A new group begins work Friday to improve Idaho’s education system. Governor Butch Otter called for its creation after November’s repeal of education laws known as Students Come First.
The first challenge for the 31 people on the Education Improvement Task Force is getting along. Many of the individuals and the groups they represent have strong animosities toward each other. But one member, Idaho schools’ superintendent Tom Luna says it can work.
“You know adults set personal issues aside,” he says. “This happens in politics, it happens in the business world, it happens in family relations.”
Luna’s sometime nemesis Idaho Education Association president Penni Cyr agrees.
“I didn’t say I’m not going to be assertive or speak on behalf of the teachers and students of Idaho earnestly but I’ll be respectful.” She adds, “as I know everybody else will be.”
Cyr says she thinks the group will work best if everyone steps back from their goals and start from scratch.
“Let’s take a look at education in Idaho and figure out what we need and why we need it rather than coming from a set agenda,” she says.
Luna’s not worried about the task force’s ability to craft recommendations. But he is concerned about implementing them. He says a similar group called the Education Alliance of Idaho made recommendations four years ago, and many of those have not yet become reality.
“I do think there’s a level of urgency that adults cannot ignore, because a child who’s a 3rd grader this year will be a 4th grader next year,” he says. “Kids are not going to wait while adults go through these processes of having committees and discussions.”
That underscores a divide between task force members. While Luna is driven by a sense of urgency, Penni Cyr says crafting a plan to improve schools will take time.
“It shouldn’t be done quickly,” she says. “It needs to take a lot of thought, a lot of discussion, a lot of processing.”
Governor Butch Otter says if members generate recommendations for lawmakers he wants them for the 2014 legislature. Cyr hopes the group will take that full year to do its job. Between now and then, Luna points out, 20,000 Idaho students will graduate from high school and many of them won't go on to college.