In a public opinion poll from Boise State University that we’ve been reporting on this week, respondents overwhelmingly named education as the most important issue in Idaho. But, that desire to focus on education comes with a pretty low opinion of the state’s school system.
If Jeff Church had been among the 1,000 people asked to rate public education in Idaho, he would have said “excellent.” But then Church is a spokesman for the state’s Department of Education.
“If I were asked that question, I would have reflected on some of the individual teachers I’ve seen as I’ve traveled the state with the department, that are really making a difference for each individual student in their classroom,” Church says.
But only three percent of respondents agreed with Church that Idaho schools are excellent. About a quarter said “good.” More than a third rated them “fair” and nearly a third said “poor.”
Church thinks the past decade or more has been difficult for teachers. He says things like the federal No Child Left Behind law have hurt teachers and public perception.
Corey Cook, dean of Boise State’s School of Public Service, which oversaw the survey, says the public image problem might exist because education has been in the news in Idaho so much in the last few years. Cook says when politicians from the governor on down name education as the top priority, people might assume something is seriously wrong.
Jeff Church doesn’t discount that idea, but he says all the attention is positive.
“It’s a good time in education when there are so many groups and stakeholders that are on the same page and recognize that education is that top priority,” Church says.
Church says not only do stakeholders need to work together to improve education in Idaho, they need to work together improve its public image. He says the state education department is already making a concerted effort to tell the public about the good things happening in Idaho schools.
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