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Idaho Educators Discuss School Policy At National Conference

Beth Pendergrass
Twin Falls School District

This week in Boston, the National Education Association is holding its annual meeting to debate new school policies. A group from Idaho is among the 8,000 educators there. 

The Idaho legislature has been looking at changing the public school funding formula. Part of the challenge is balancing the redistribution of dollars between urban schools and the rural schools that make up the majority of the state.

Penni Cyr is the outgoing president of the Idaho Education Association. She also leads its Rural Task Force, where she is "working with business people and other stakeholders to try to figure out how we can make sure those students have access to the same things to which students in Boise, for example, have access."

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been an advocate for voucher initiatives. These are state-funded programs that pay for students to go to private school. Cyr is crystal clear on the position of the Idaho Education Association, saying, "Well, we’re very opposed to that. Our constitution says that public tax money should pay for public education, not for private or parochial schools."

DeVos also has signaled she may not be as aggressive as her predecessors in enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in public schools, which has educators like Cyr worried. "I hope that is stopped at the national level, as well," said Cyr. "Every student deserves to have an equal and full education. That curriculum meets all the needs of every student. That teachers look like the students. It’s very important that we maintain the civil rights of all people."

Reflecting on her time as president of the Idaho Education Association, Cyr said the highlights included the ballot box defeat of the so-called Luna education reform laws in 2012 and improving professional development among teachers. 

Find Tom Michael on Twitter @tom2michael

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