ID Dem Gov. Candidate AJ Balukoff: School is out too much

by / Tuesday, 10 June 2014 / Published in News
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Idaho Democratic governor candidate AJ Balukoff will focus on creating more opportunities for Idaho businesses and Idaho’s children. To that end, Balukoff has taken a hard look at the condition of our public schools:

” … children in 40 Idaho districts go to school only four days a week. … These districts have gone to shorter weeks not because it is good for the students academically, and not because it better prepares them for college or a high-skill, high-paying job. They’ve taken that unfortunate and drastic step simply because they cannot afford to keep their doors open five days a week.”

AJ Balukoff also understands that our success depends on creating opportunities beyond high school:

“The cost of college has risen steeply: Tuition at Boise State University leapt 90 percent between 2004 and 2013, and two-thirds of Idaho college graduates carry debt, a higher proportion than in 39 other states.”

There is more, much more, Gov. Otter can do to continue his program of cutting public education, and thereby cutting opportunities that are there for every child, no matter what are his or her family’s economic circumstances.

In Idaho, the best action a parent or a student or a grandparent can take to improve the prosperity of cities, businesses, and families is to make sure AJ Balukoff is our next governor.

Here’s AJ Balukoff’s recent opinion on education in Idaho:

 

School Is Out… But For Many Idaho Kids, It’s Out Too Much

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

By A.J. Balukoff

Across Idaho, the school year is ending, and families are shifting their focus from education to summer activities. Unfortunately, though, for more than one in three school districts in our state, even during the school year, school is out more than it should be.

This is also the time of year that another class of high-school graduates enters the world, so I want to congratulate them and their families for that accomplishment and wish the graduates of 2014 great success. But I’m also reminded that barely more than one-third of our graduates will go on to college or some kind of post-secondary education, even though we know that about 60 percent of jobs in Idaho will require some post-secondary education by around 2020.

We must do better by our young people.

Under Gov. Otter and the Legislature’s Republican majority, our state has steadily chopped away at our investment in education over the past several years. Our funding levels remain below what the state spent in 2009, and not only is Idaho ranked 50th in the nation in per-pupil spending, but we invest a fraction of what most of our neighboring states put into schools: Montana spends 54 percent more per student than Idaho, and Wyoming spends a whopping 133 percent more (based on 2011 statistics).

As a result, children in 40 Idaho districts go to school only four days a week. Beginning this fall, Homedale joins that list of districts on a four-day week. These districts have gone to shorter weeks not because it is good for the students academically, and not because it better prepares them for college or a high-skill, high-paying job. They’ve taken that unfortunate and drastic step simply because they cannot afford to keep their doors open five days a week. They’re struggling just to make ends meet and keep teachers in the classroom.

One other tragic fallout of our chronic disinvestment in public schools is that Idaho teachers are leaving the state in huge numbers for better-paying jobs elsewhere. They also often say they hope to find work where they’re treated with more respect than they have received from our political establishment here in Idaho.

In higher education, Gov. Otter and the Legislature made the sixth-deepest cuts in the country since the start of the Great Recession. The cost of college has risen steeply: Tuition at Boise State University leapt 90 percent between 2004 and 2013, and two-thirds of Idaho college graduates carry debt, a higher proportion than in 39 other states.

Creating strong public schools is the best investment we can make in our children, our economy and our communities. I’m running for governor because I believe our state is not living up to its constitutional mandate—and moral obligation—to provide our kids with a “general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” And I worry about what that will mean for my grandchildren and all of Idaho’s children.

My parents instilled in me the importance of education. My father recognized the limitations of his eighth-grade education, and he and my mother made sure that my siblings and I knew that a good education was our ticket to a prosperous future. Today, I see how our current state leadership’s chronic disinvestment in our public schools has hurt our communities, and I know that will have serious, long-term impacts on our economy

Earlier this week, I received a letter from a middle-school student in Rexburg named Olivia. Olivia understands what it will take to move Idaho forward. “If I could, I would choose to vote for you,” she wrote. “You want to improve Idaho’s economy by increasing the number of good jobs (and improving) schools.”

I’m running for governor because I want a brighter future for Olivia and the rest of Idaho’s schoolchildren.

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