Opponents of education choice keep using the same word over and over: accountability. They say, “If taxpayer money is to go to private schools (or basically anything that is not controlled by government), government needs to hold those schools accountable for their performance.”
This is the go-to talking point for Republican Rep. Julie Yamamoto, the chairman of the House Education Committee and the Legislature’s leading school choice opponent. At a forum in Caldwell last week, she again rang the bell for “accountability.”
Yamamoto is quoted in Idaho Education News saying, “Do I think kids are worth every cent we put into them? I do. But let’s make sure we’re getting what we think we’re paying for and that we’re holding people accountable for…taxpayer money.”
As my mentor Ralph Smeed used to say, “Interesting, if true.” Because in this case, it’s obviously not. For years, government school test scores prove this. Not that I’m a big fan of the standardized test. I’m not. The tests are flawed, having been watered down over many years to the point of being useless. However, test results are the tools we are given to evaluate school performance. And what do they show? In rough terms, half the kids who graduate from government high schools can’t read, write, or do math at the level they need to in order to be successful in the world.
The most recent test scores for Idaho students reinforce this point. As leftist as Idaho Education News is, it couldn’t overlook the obvious with the most recent science results from the Idaho Standards Achievement test: only 41.6 percent of students achieved proficiency.
Earlier in the month, the state Department of Education revealed similar abysmal results for math and reading but put out a news release that very much obscured the bad data by focusing on how Idaho compares nationally. Here’s a rude awakening: government schools are bad in every state in America. Comparing Idaho to other failing states is no comparison at all. What’s most important is that in Idaho’s government-run schools, 52% of students passed the English/literacy portion of the test and 42% passed the math portion.
In what world is that considered something to celebrate? Why didn’t the state Department of Education put that in the headline of its news release? Why isn’t Idaho schools superintendent Debbie Crtichfield demanding accountability for the schools that can only manage proficiency for half of the students under their watch? Why aren’t state lawmakers beside themselves over the failure of the state school system, which has been flooded with more money over many years? This isn’t a new problem. We’ve been writingabout itfor years.
Lawmakers like Yamamoto like to talk about accountability, and that’s fine as far as it goes. But government schools aren’t held accountable now. When will Idaho policymakers start shutting down failing schools and giving parents their money back so they can send their kids to schools where the odds of success are better than a coin toss? How much longer shall we endure politicians who protect the existing, failed system at the expense of yet another generation of Idaho school kids?
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