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Will Idaho education reforms survive Election Day?

Published On: Oct 23 2012 07:53:15 PM CDT   Updated On: Oct 23 2012 08:35:03 PM CDT
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On Election Day, Idaho voters have a choice to make when it comes to their children. They will decide whether to support the education reforms that went into effect last year or strike them down.

Propositions 1, 2 and 3 are comprehensive, touching on everything from teacher contract negotiations to students getting laptops. Proponents and opponents disagree on the merits of each proposition while also claiming they are watching out for the interest of Idaho students.

Proposition 1 is all about contracts. It limits negotiations to just salary and benefits and gets rid of continuous contracts.

Proposition 2 focuses on pay for performance. Teachers can make up to $8,000 in bonuses based on standardized tests, leadership roles and stepping into hard to fill positions.

Proposition 3 brings Idaho classrooms into the 21st century as students will have to take two online classes to graduate and teachers and students alike will get laptops.

Those against these changes see it as a one-size-fits-all that won't work.

"It doesn't take into account multiple learning styles. It doesn't take into account their home life, what they come to the table with. To me that is the most egregious part of this," Tim Sandford, Lake City High School teacher and member of the Idaho Education Association, said.

Sandford thinks the propositions have led to an exodus of teachers who can't find job security. He worries about funding and that the pay for performance puts an unfair burden on teachers.

"When you put all of your reforms on the backs of your teachers alone and don't look at the society, you are going to fail," he said.

Every story has two sides. Idaho State Senator John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene chairs the education committee and said that limiting negotiations allows school boards to make decisions at a local level and that up-to-date technology is a must for the classrooms.

"We have textbooks that show our president as Bill Clinton. You don't get that in a digital textbook," he explained.

Senator Goedde added that pay for performance is based on growth and will be judged from school to school.

"What we did was very comprehensive in nature. We did in one fell swoop. We are the envy of a number of states," he said.

While Idaho's education system might be a source of envy across the country, it will be up to Idaho voters to determine whether to give Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's education reforms a thumb up or down.