There is a new day coming for public education in Idaho, under the leadership of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
In a letter to the Idaho Statesman, dated September 10, 2007, Supt. Luna enumerates a number of new initiatives that will improve public education in the state.
First, this year there is an additional $20 million in the Classroom Enhancement Package which will help all schools buy updated textbooks and assist students who fail to score well on the ISAT tests. In addition, each teacher will receive up to $350 each year for supplies needed in their individual classrooms. (Idaho Education Assoc. members frequently complain that teachers must use their own funds to properly outfit their classrooms.)
Also under development is a concurrent-enrollment program which will make it possible for high school students to enroll in college classes. This will allow students who are capable of the advanced material to get a head start on their college education, and may encourage more students to pursue higher education (possibly even in Idaho) after high school.
Educational choice is also important to Luna, who has established a new Division of Innovation and Choice within the state Department of Education. This division will sponsor workshops to instruct interested Idahoans in getting new charter schools off the ground. School districts seeking to create magnet schools and offer other new programs will receive special help, as well.
In addition, an Idaho Math Initiative is being developed to increase math scores for all Idaho students and reduce the number of students who require remedial math courses in college or on the job. We can only assume this will be similar to the Reading Initiative which has improved reading among Idaho students.
And recently a legislative committee has considered another of Lunaâ€™s proposals which would allocate an additional $50 million in teacher salaries. The extra dollars would be paid to those teachers willing to trade a little job security for a little increased excellence in the classroom.
In other words, the increased salaries would seek to compensate teachers for assuming greater accountability for their studentsâ€™ success. Under a bill proposed in the 2007 Idaho Legislature, teachers would have been able to choose a lower paid, job-secure track, or a higher paid track dependent on student achievement. A similar proposal is expected to surface in the 2008 legislature.
All in all, it appears that under the leadership of Tom Luna, public education in Idaho is moving forward in a variety of positive directions.
The stranglehold which the Idaho Education Association has developed and carefully maintained on Idaho public education will continue to be eased as school choice expands and develops.
Emphasis on student achievement (as opposed to student self-esteem or some other meaningless intangible) will increase.
Idaho high school students will have a new option for advancing into higher education. It should be obvious that taking an actual college class is preferable to enrolling in Advanced Placement courses, which may or may not be recognized by the college of choice.
Idaho teachers brave enough to actually assume responsibility for their teaching ability will have the opportunity to earn more as they participate in lifting students to greater heights of achievement.
Yes, it appears that public education in Idaho is taking a turn for the better.
Imagine – public education that gives its patrons and financial supporters (that would be tax payers like you and me) what they know is best for their children, instead of what self-important, irrelevant, “new-is-always-better” experts dictate.
It’s high time.
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