Friday, January 14, 2011

The Facts About Students Come First

Why Do We Need to Change the System?

The Problem: The current system is not sustainable.

Budget Cuts: The state has cut or shifted $200 million from the public schools budget over the past two years.

A Decade of Lost Opportunity: Even with optimistic revenue growth, it will take Idaho 10 years to get per-pupil spending back to where it was just two years ago. We can no longer rely on federal bailouts to prop up our budget year after year.

Student Achievement: Our students have made significant academic progress in recent years, but still have a long way to go. One-third of our schools are still not meeting our high academic goals, and more than half of Idaho students do not go on to postsecondary education after high school.

Choices: The Legislature has two options. We can continue to cannibalize the system – adding more furlough days, cutting teacher pay further, and reducing student-teacher contact time. Or we can change the system.

Solution: Let’s change the system to educate more students at a higher level on limited resources. We can accomplish this by using existing funding differently, without raising taxes.

What are the Benefits for Students?

Students Come First: Public education will now be focused wholly on the student.

College- and Career-Ready: When students graduate from high school, they will be college- and career-ready, without the need for remediation. Every student will have a highly effective teacher in every year, and a highly effective principal at the head of every school.

State-of-the-Art Technology: No longer will school be the least technological part of a student’s day. Students will now have access to an unprecedented level of technology in the classroom, such as clickers, computers, e-readers, and more.

24/7 Learning: Every student will have access to learning 24/7. All high school students will receive a laptop, which includes the necessary maintenance, technical support and security. They will take at least two online courses a year. They can enroll in additional online courses without prior permission from the district.

More Opportunities: Students will have additional learning opportunities. They can take free dual credit courses their senior year, if they meet graduation requirements early. They will be able to attend high school at a college or university.

Fiscal Stability: Idaho’s students will attend school in a financially stable public education system, without increasing taxes.

What are the Benefits for Teachers?

Restore Pay: The state will fully restore and preserve the salary grid for Idaho’s teachers. Starting pay for new teachers will increase to $30,000. The grid will serve as the base pay for all teachers.

Reward Excellence: Idaho’s teachers and leaders will be rewarded for excellence. Through the state’s pay-for-performance, teachers can earn bonuses of between $2,000 to $8,000 a year for working in hard-to-fill positions, taking on additional leadership duties, or improving students’ academic growth in an entire school.

Classroom Investments: Teachers will have access to advanced technology in the classroom through a historic $50 million investment in clickers, computers, e-readers, and more.

Teacher Training: All professional development and continuing education will be meaningful and focus on what students and teachers need, based on current, accurate data.

Teacher Equity: Seniority will no longer be the determining factor if a district is forced to lay off teachers.

Insurance Options: Similar to what it provides state employees, the state will provide liability insurance options for Idaho’s teachers.

Focus on Growth: Idaho’s public schools will shift to focus on a student’s academic growth in a given year.

Fiscal Stability: The state will create a financially stable education system for Idaho’s teachers without raising taxes.

What are the Benefits for Parents?

Empower Parents: Parents will now have a voice in all teacher and administrator evaluations.  All educator evaluations will be tied to student academic growth.

Prepared Students: All students will be prepared for college, career, and the ever-changing world that awaits them.

24/7 Learning: The state will offer learning opportunities to students 24/7 by providing a laptop to every student and additional virtual education options.

Informed Parents: Parents will have access to clear, understandable data on student achievement results and financial matters in every school district.  Every district will post its budget online. The State Department of Education will publish a fiscal report for every district. All salary negotiations will be held in open meetings, and master agreements will be made readily available online.

Fiscal Stability: The public school system in Idaho will be financially stable without raising taxes. 

What are the Benefits for Local Leaders?

Restore Local School Board Authority: The state will restore authority to locally elected school board trustees. The collective bargaining process at the local level will be streamlined. Idaho will phase out tenure by offering all new teachers a two-year rolling contract. Existing teachers who have tenure will keep it.

More Flexibility in Workforce: The locally elected school board will be granted more flexibility in hiring superintendents at the district level. Seniority will no longer be the determining factor in teacher lay off decisions.

Focus on Growth: All teacher and administrator evaluations will be tied to student academic growth.

Empower Principals: Building principals will now have the authority to make the final decision on staffing at the school level.

Fiscal Stability: The state will create a financially stable public education system without raising taxes.

What Is the Alternative?

The only other options that have been discussed for the K-12 public schools budget next year and in future years are more of the same – more cuts to our public schools.  With more cuts, districts will have to chop days off the calendar, reduce student-teacher contact time, further reduce teacher pay, require furlough days throughout the school year, and slash educational offerings in every district.  

There is none of that in this plan. Above all, there is nothing in the Students Come First plan that hurts Idaho students.

Just look at what we can accomplish by spending what we currently have differently.  We can:
  • give teachers the classroom tools they need,
  • provide teachers additional training,
  • cover the $35 million budget gap we currently have,
  • restore $20 million to maintenance funds,
  • fully restore the salary grid for teachers,
  • raise minimum teacher pay,
  • implement pay-for-performance in addition to the base salary,
  • give all high school students laptops, and
  • fund dual credit for high school seniors.
Before, it seemed daunting and impossible to restore $128 million in funding to our public schools and to create more opportunities for students. But today, we have the solution. This is the only way to educate more students at a higher level with limited resources.

Nobody has presented an idea or a plan that gets us even close to that.


  1. I think it is a grave mistake to increase classroom size. Classroom size is already out-of-control and I can tell you from personal experience that my child has come home from school, on many occasions, complaining that she can't get enough individual help--and this is a child who excels in school. Increasing classroom size is contradictory to "Students Come First."
    I also feel that online classes should either be optional or those students who cannot maintain adequate attention have the alternative of a live classroom experience. Many children need to be stimulated and they are not going to get this online.

  2. I agree that increasing the classrooms will be deprimental to students. Students need to be able to get one-on-one time with the teacher, and the more students in a class the harder this will become.

    I know from experience that online classes sound good, but take much more work than one would think. My daughter took her second year of Spanish online through school, and does she speak Spanish, No. She can read some of it, but that was from her first year spanish teacher.

    I am attending school online and I know from personal experenice that not have a teacher there to explain it can make it quiet difficult. There have been times that I would like to have a teacher that is there to help answer questions. Although I passed Algebra with a B, it was hard and frustrating and I think students will get discouraged.