Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Is Idaho Another Wisconsin? ... Teachers Unions at Risk ... Better Days Ahead for Students, Parents, Teachers and Taxpayers

Son of Scott Walker is subtitled 'In Idaho, as in Wisconsin, the teachers unions fight reforms.' Here's what it says:

"Come November, Idahoans will vote on three referenda aimed at repealing what may be the nation's most sweeping education reform, including new limits on collective bargaining for teachers. Think of it as the sequel to Wisconsin, where similar reforms led to a similar effort—the attempted recall of Gov. Scott Walker.

At the heart of the political drama in Idaho is the state's superintendent of public instruction, Tom Luna. A glance at Mr. Luna's résumé shows a career businessman who became involved in his local school board and went on to serve in the Bush Education Department before returning to Idaho to run for his present office in 2006. . . .

Called "Students Come First," (Idaho legislation passed in 2011) limits collective bargaining, introduces merit pay, and takes advantage of new technology to help give more Idaho students the education they need for college.
Because Idaho is a Western state lacking both huge urban centers and large minority populations, it doesn't fit into the familiar education narrative of inner-city hopelessness. Nevertheless, failure is failure. Here's just one telling measure: A report released a week ago by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for a Competitive Workforce ranked Idaho as one of the four worst states in terms of the percentage of students who enroll and complete a four-year college degree.

"Idaho epitomizes the Lake Wobegon effect," says Jeanne Allen, president of the D.C.-based Center for Education Reform. "In states like this, the assumption is all is well. The reality is they've been simply going through the motions for years, and the result is a kind of Third World education status." Students Come First aims to change that by getting control over costs and elevating achievement.

Thus the so-called Luna laws now restrict collective bargaining to salary and benefits, phase out tenure and force teacher contract negotiations out in the open. They also eliminate a practice that across America operates largely to protect bad teachers and keep good ones out of the classroom: the last-hired, first-fired system of seniority.

The other two prongs of Students Come First deal mostly with quality. New merit-pay provisions mean that teachers can earn up to $8,000 a year extra for serving in hard-to-fill positions, taking on leadership positions, or helping their schools boost student achievement. The technology part has to do with ensuring that students and teachers in any part of Idaho have access to the best instruction available. . . .

Thus far, Mr. Luna's fight has largely taken place under the national radar. That's a pity. Idaho is a reminder that the inadequacies of our public school empires are not confined to racial minorities or inner cities. To the contrary, Idaho's school system today looks like much of American public education: mediocrity sliding into failure.

As for Mr. Luna, he doesn't appear to be backing down. At a GOP rally in Twin Falls on Friday night, he received a standing ovation after blasting teachers unions as the "common enemy" of achievement and reform. The unions aren't giving up either, trying to scare parents with warnings about larger class sizes, school safety and the loss of local control.

We've seen this script before. As with other public-sector unions, the Idaho Education Association offers no real alternative. At a time when Idaho's education budgets are being cut for lack of revenues, the union answer is the same as it's always been: more money for more of the same."

My Take

This is really simple stuff.  However, changing the status quo into something that works for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers won't be easy.

That's because the staunchest defenders of the failed status quo, our teachers unions, are energized and dead set against improving the system.

Nevertheless, the tide definitely is turning in favor of making our educational system work. If so, that means good things ahead for students, parents, teachers and taxpayers, one and all.

Will the unions prevail and be able to maintain the educational status quo?

Or will We the People care enough to change what needs to be changed, improve educational opportunities for all and save the taxpayers money at the same time?

I'm betting on We the People.

And by taking charge, We the People will thereby provide our teachers with a meaningful opportunity to make a huge difference in the lives of the young people they teach while being properly incentivized to help students prepare for a lifetime of learning.

Thanks. Bob.

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