District 17 Newsletter

Public Education Listening Session

Given the tumultuous public education issues and continued budget cuts addressed during the last legislative session, combined with the proposed Boise School District levy election (March 13, 2012), Team 17 decided to check in with educators and parents about what they are seeing this year in our public schools.

On November 10th we invited you to come and speak with us about our public schools. We had a good crowd and many frank comments. We thought it best to provide you with a summary of the forum comments.

If you have any comments or ideas about what could or should be done for our public schools please respond to this email with your ideas.


November 10, 2011 Public Education

Listening Session Summary

The following notes are very rough and meant only to provide a sense of the discussion that took place during the listening session. We have tried to capture the essence of what was said as best as we can. It was a very fluid discussion so these notes cannot adequately capture the event.

Comments:

A person comments that Mr. Luna seemed out of touch with technology. The clicker demonstration he gave (to teaching staff?) for a two question test was absurd. Clicker tests take a long time to set up – far longer than any reasonable person would take. It is technology for technologies sake. We used to teach how to think and learn. Now we teach what to think. Narrowed curriculum.

One person had traveled and spoken to educators from around the world – they said that American children no longer think, only rote memorization.

Some found the excessive testing of students to be offensive.

A question was asked about getting through to the majority party so that they listen to the people. We could only encourage them to continue to communicate with their legislators and acknowledged that it is difficult after the overwhelmingly response to the Luna laws and lack of respect for the input that was given last year. Also the people have the opportunity to change the make-up of the legislature every two years in the election.

A discussion centered on educating voters to get them to vote differently. Unfortunately there is little pervasive media in Idaho to communicate what really happens in the legislature.

A comment was made that priorities in our country and really screwed up right now.

A parent of a teacher said in Coeur d’Alene teachers are being forced to work athletic events, etc. without pay. They are being intimidated to “volunteer” because layoffs are threatened. He is also concerned that people will forget by the time the referendum for the laws are up for a vote in November 2012.

From a teacher – education is the most important function of government – Luna laws have turned teachers against each other where collaboration results in better student achievement. Numbers of school days are decreasing while No Child Left Behind (NCLB) has narrowed the curriculum. Bad for business since students no longer taught critical thinking skills – only test taking. This is an attack on the middle class.

Another teacher said that her class size is 32 with no aid. 20 years ago she had a large class like this with aids to help). Classes are too big. Her school lost 4 paraprofessionals so kids get little help. English Language Learner (ELL) staff cut to ½ time so language learners now get 45 minutes/day instead of ½ day. School cut multiple grade class, less resources and support, and a lack of support for technology. District did well to keep cuts from classroom until this year with pay reductions, layoffs of administrative, and salary freeze.

A teacher characterized NCLB at No Teacher Left Untrampled – she teaches ELL and loves her kids. Moved from a language academy to a high school and kids lost cohesion and support. 22 teachers fired and high class sizes create chaos.

Someone mentioned that kindergarten in Meridian had cuts because of failed levy. Two weeks cut from school year, lesser benefits for employees, 20 to 24 kids/class with no support personnel, no resource room teacher, principal running oral language program, few supplies, no paper. She wrote 5 grants and got two to keep her class running. All field trips cut, less help and enrichment, staff feels devalued and demeaned by legislature, Luna, and Otter. People seem to value education less. She asked Team 17 to speak out for education to oppose State Department of Education propaganda.

Luna’s laws replace teachers with technology with no standards and no plan. Very quick implementation and state committee is overwhelmed with task. Questions if it is even possible.

6th grade teacher of 22 years – if Boise District levy fails the state has ended any preference for seniority. There are no criteria in Luna’s laws that are a basis for layoffs -leaving it to the principal at each school. Many teachers will be fired.

Levy loss will result in pay to play athletics and end of multiple grade classes. Higher minimum students to start a class will mean a loss of music and art classes – a place where all students can achieve. Also loss of advanced placement (AP) classes where Boise is in 1% of district across the country in achievement.

A gentleman stood and said that the Boise District levy is about money (someone had distributed information about the proposed levy). Many patrons don’t own property – foreclosures, etc. He works at a food bank and they are overwhelmed. Money cannot be generated to support the levy. He wants teachers to work 8 hours/day and on Saturday. In his ideal world we would have economics taught as early as 4th grade and philosophy and music to all students.

Another stated that kids in the Boise District are very involved. Our contact with schools is the most important contact with government. He participated heavily in his kid’s education. This is the #1 issue for government and must be adequately funded. The 2006 bond kept Monroe Elementary – Boise District kept its promise. Luna laws strip local control – now mandates from the state. Mandates where money is spent – eliminates local control to direct education. Online charter schools pushed for online course requirement. Don’t mandate, instead simply expand the choice. Upset that charters are trying to dictate to regular schools. Education is #1 priority and helps our economy. He wants to place local option authority for transit/roads on the back-burner.

Spouse of a teacher responding to an earlier comment said she would love an 8 hour day. His wife works about 60 hours/week.

A teacher said she had never seen legislator come to a school and ask what is going on. She wants the legislature’s education committees (and Luna) to spend a week/year at a local school. They have no concept of what teachers do and what they face.

Someone commented that teaching is a higher calling and they will stand up for teachers. Don’t give up education for money. Eliminate tax breaks and use the money for education. Without a good school system we all will go down.

A teacher came to Boise from another state (she couldn’t get a job as a white female) – she was shocked by the bubble here. She now works at ELL school – mixed classrooms, many kids don’t speak English. 12 of the 26 kids are unique and this is a gift for the white students. Frustrated that she works on her time (and dime) to advance (she pays for mandated continuing education) unlike the private sector where college advancement is often covered by the company because they see advantage in a better educated workforce. Luna is behind the times on technology. Teachers/schools need technology training. Students are now very stressed (even in lower grades) and they can’t work 12 months/year under current conditions. These expectations are unrealistic. Most teachers are self-sacrificing and committed to the job.

A question was asked about attacks on the Public Employee Retirement System (PERSI).

Answer: Neo-conservatives have, and will continue to attack PERSI even though it is one of the best run retirement systems in the country. PERSI has begun an education campaign about how decisions are made and what unfunded liabilities actually mean.

A question was asked about undermining the repeal of the Luna laws via referendum in November 2012. We expect changes to the laws (since much is unworkable as written). With some excess money because of lowballed revenue targets the majority party will try and add money to system in an election year. The majority party could do other things to undermine the referenda.

A comment was made by someone that works in information technology. Technology (as mandated by the Luna laws) is fragile, breaks, and constantly requires expensive upgrades. It is a means to an end – a tool. Luna is forcing technology and couldn’ts not useful. Give students technical skills. Forcing online classes does not teach technical skills. He got his masters via distance education. Professor made all the difference in classes – not technology (quality varied wildly). He had a choice, high school students will not. Legislature gave no choice – taxpayers will fund online classes regardless of quality.

Someone stated that kids don’t sit still well. Sitting them at computers will be counterproductive. Kids need to move and interact.

We were asked if bills can be passed that will replace the Luna laws. Unlikely since the effort will be to fix the unworkable portions in the 2012 session.

A single person stated that people without children support teachers and she would gladly pay for better education through the Boise District levy.

A comment was made to enforce current law and collect sales taxes for online, catalogue, and out of state purchases to support schools.

AnPersia stated that it is disturbing that some large corporations do not pay taxes.

At one school the PTA raised funds for projector in all the classrooms. UnPersiauna laws state money could buy the projectors but they cannot help to install them.

Money was wrongly spent. Melaleuca had money for expensive ad in newspapers to support LunPersias. Lots of lobby money from business that would benefit from the law. Money that was wrongly spent.

Another comment concerned issue with the cost for online classes to school districts. Students/parents choose classes and districts forced to pay – regardless of quality. When a student retakes a class the districts are forced to pay again (lesser amount). No organization about distribution of computers. Studlow balled and go as people move. Nothing seems on track or organized.

A comment was made that students will mess around instead of taking online classes.

Another talked about the fact that many classrooms in high school are mixed. For the first four years of the laptop program many students won’t have computers in class. Teachers will teach without using computers since everyone won’t have one.

Technicians will be required at every school to keep up the technology. More money not getting to the classroom.

We closed with a discussion regarding using your circle of influence to education people. You family, friends, and co-workers need to hear your concerns as you listen to theirs.

Stay tuned for the next public forum January 5, 2012, 7:00 PM in the Borah High library to discuss the upcoming legislative session.


 

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