Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts tagged as “education”

First take/SOS

State of the State speeches in Idaho or elsewhere usually are broad-based, washing over a lot of topics and never burrowing very deeply on any one. Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's SOS Monday was an exception.

He spent the bulk of the speech on education, and sometimes on unfamiliar aspects of it. He talked at some length about reading proficiency, and said "My budget includes $10.7 million to pay for intervention support for students in kindergarten through third grade who are not yet proficient on the state reading indicator. That will improve the chances for more Idaho students to succeed through high school and beyond."

He talked about other education initiatives as well and, more to the point, backed it up with a substantial increase for public schools, 7.9 percent overall. That won't fully fill back the losses from the recession years, or make up for the absence of progress since, but it's a start.

There was also this: "I had the chance last month to experience a little of what innovative, mastery-focused learning looks like in our classrooms. I participated in an “Hour of Code” exercise with fifth-graders at Boise’s Garfield Elementary. Immersing myself in that environment and watching students do the same, I saw firsthand the difference that individualized learning can make in comprehension, application and ultimately mastery."

Individualized learning likely a way of the future in education, and its mention here was noteworthy. - rs

“Go on”, or not

A guest opinion from Caldwell educator Levi Cavener on current ballot initiatives that would lower Idaho's tuition and increase the general fund.

There is some irony in the precarious position the Gem State has found itself in. Despite setting a goal in 2010 for 60% of Idaho’s young people under age 34 to attend postsecondary education, the Idaho legislature then decided the way to encourage young people to attend college is to significantly inflate the tuition costs for those would-be students in the subsequent years that followed.

This objective was coupled with a comedic “Go-On” and “Don’t Fail Idaho” campaign courtesy of Idaho’s Albertson Foundation designed to prod would-be students into higher education despite the increasing costs to attend tethered together with lackluster job prospects in the Gem State to find employment.

And while it appears Idaho’s leaders would rather not acknowledge that the economics courses actually being taught in the Gem State’s universities could have precisely predicted the result of pulling the rug on funding higher education at exactly the same time Idaho’s families were struggling--never mind tuition costs--to simply put food on the table, Idaho’s young citizens do seem to understand those basic behavioral economics.

Dangling red herrings such as 21st century content standards, more school choice, and greater STEM focus as the solutions to Idaho’s lackluster college enrollment misses the crux of the issue in entirety. While these topics are worthwhile discussions in the their own right, they miss the fundamental problem young people are facing.

This discussion need not be that complicated: if Idaho continues to ignore rising tuition costs, textbook costs, lab fees, and student housing then the Gem State should also be equally prepared to expect stagnated postsecondary enrollment and a continued brain drain of our most talented young people for greener pastures outside the state.

The Albertson strategy of admonishing young people into postsecondary attendance is as equally cruel as it is ineffective. Young people living in a state dead last in the nation for wages, a state with exploding tuition costs, and a state with negligible public scholarship opportunities are making a rational economic decision for their future when they decline to enroll in higher education upon graduation.

While our state’s leaders may continue to ballyhoo other reasons for this outcome, Idahoans are becoming increasingly inpatient in addressing the fundamental problem facing high school graduates. As the price of public postsecondary enrollment continues to rise, the value of attendance in our higher education programs continues to decline in the eyes of Idaho’s young people.

The two ballot initiatives currently circulating in our state are evidence that citizens have become disillusioned that their elected leaders actually plan on making any tangible changes to this status quo. The first petition circulated by the group Stop Tuition Hikes has proposed a modest increase on tobacco tax to use the generated revenue in lowering Idaho’s tuition by 22%. The second initiative sponsored by Idaho’s League of Women Voters, similarly, seeks to end tax exemptions coupled with reducing the sales tax to generate additional funds for our state’s budget.

And there is a very real chance that one or both of these initiatives will generate the signatures required to get on the ballot; there is an equally real chance Idaho’s voters will happily vote to reduce their sales tax and decrease the cost of sending their children to college if they are given the opportunity to vote on such a measure.

If Idaho’s leaders and the Albertson Foundation are truly interested in improving the rate of postsecondary enrollment, I wholeheartedly expect to see them give us the gift of gushing endorsements on both ballot initiatives. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Teaching to the pizza

What's next when it comes to underfunding schools (see post to follow shortly)? The future of the really underfunded schools may be showing up in Pocatello . . .

Where, according to news reports, high school history and economics teacher Jeb Harrison is selling advertising - ads his students are obliged to look at. They are so obliged because the ads (for a 14-inch pizza for $5!) appears on tests and workbooks.

Before you blame the teacher, note that Harrison is not pocketing the money: The $315 so raised is being spent by the pizza shop owner on supplies for the classroom. The motivations of teacher and business owner seem more or less honorable enough. (The three commenters on the news story linked above all though this a wonderful idea.)

Where do we go from here - what's up for sale next? Is this the kind of sad, sold-out future - where absolutely everything is nothing more or less than another blank slate for another ad - we're headed toward? It is if we take the attitude toward school funding that - well, we'll come back to that in a moment.

OR: The mission continues

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

Compare the state of the state addresses by Idaho's Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and Oregon's Governor Ted Kulongoski, and you could hardly imagine they were delivered at nearly the same hour on the same day, each facing similar economic and social pressures. The speeches could hardly be more difference.

Both proposed transportation and some other infrastructure improvements (which, in each case, could tie into federal spending).

You can see references in Otter's speech in the post below. But consider what Kulongoski had to say - it was a short speech and the key sentences jump out:

"What do we have to do to restore prosperity and lay the groundwork for a future where our children are the best educated in America, our environmental leadership is unquestioned in America, and our economy stands ready to take full advantage of the green industrial and energy revolution that is stirring in America. . . . The ground on which – together – we will build a budget for the next biennium has shifted. But the pillars of that budget – children, education, health care, renewable energy, green technology, and transportation – cannot be shaken. . . .

"If we’re going to turn unemployment checks into paychecks, the state must invest in our human infrastructure. My top priority for this upcoming biennium remains education – because only by creating the best trained, best skilled, best educated workforce in America will we be able to create the employment opportunities that are this state’s future. I’ve been saying for months that the way to turn despair into hope, and uncertainty into prosperity, is to build a protective wall around funding for education.

"The time has come to rise to that challenge – and to accept the moral responsibility of making sure that every Oregon child from birth to age 19 has health insurance. Yes – that means finding the political courage to raise revenue. What are we afraid of? These are our children! . . . We’re also going to have to innovate, educate, and invest! That means more research and development into energy efficiency and conservation. Creating a larger science infrastructure that will attract and train scientists and engineers. And making sure Oregon businesses have the opportunity to generate a critical mass of brainpower, financial power, and marketing power. When it comes to fighting climate change, recently I’ve been hearing a chorus of naysayers singing a three-part harmony of – too costly, too burdensome, and too soon. But this chorus is out of tune – and out of touch – with Oregon’s future."

Slice and cut

Butch Otter

C.L. "Butch" Otter

C.L. "Butch" Otter, Idaho's governor, has long been a cut-taxes-less-government kinda guy, but some of his recent statements suggested that he might try to find ways in the next year's state budget to avoid really massive, overwhelming cuts. And he may well have tried. But great big cuts are the hallmark of what he has proposed to the Idaho Legislature today.

Consider this slice from early in the speech:

The budget recommendation you received today includes a General Fund allocation for public schools that is about 5-and-one-third percent less than this year’s appropriation. However, the $1 billion, 425 million I’m proposing for K-through-12 education next year still represents almost half our total General Fund budget.

And the fact is that my proposed public schools budget is reduced FAR less than I’m recommending for other state agencies. For example, my General Fund budget proposal for Health and Welfare is down 71⁄2 percent. Higher education is down almost 10 percent; the departments of Correction and Water Resources each are down almost 12 percent. The Department of Agriculture recommendation is down more than 31 percent, Commerce more than 51 percent, and Parks and Recreation almost 56 percent.

He also declined to have any truck with the state's rainy day funds; there may be, he suggested, a lot of rainy days.

As conservative as the Idaho Legislature is, there may be some dispute about some of this.

From there, he spoke of Project 60, a broad-based effort to increase Idaho's economic output, "nurturing a new generation of entrepreneurial giants. We want to encourage and create a climate that enables visionaries like the Simplots, Albertsons and Morrisons of yesterday – and like the Parkinsons, Hagadones, Vandersloots and Sayers of our own generation – to create more jobs and brighter futures for Idaho families and communities." (more…)