Idaho businessmen Ron Sayer, president of Premier Technologies in Pocatello, and Ron Nilson, owner of Ground Force Manufacturing in Post Falls, testified before a joint session of the House and Senate Education Committees to discuss the private sector's role in the development of professional-technical education programs in Idaho schools. Both men offered bleak descriptions of the school systems in the state, with Sayer calling night school and adult education programs "substandard at best."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna was in attendance at the meeting and took time Tuesday, in an interview with IdahoReporter.com, to respond to the concerns of the businessmen. Luna said he understands that Nilson and Sayer, both friends of his with who he has collaborated with in the past, are passionate men who simply want the needs of both students and industry to be met. He said the Idaho school system needs to work to prepare children for the world that awaits them and must be responsive to the demands of the employment market.
"I was very pleased with the response the legislators gave them," said Luna, who also felt the advancement of professional-technical education in the state "took a step forward" Tuesday as a result of the Nilson/Sayer presentation.
Most of the legislators on the joint House and Senate panel gave the two men a warm welcome, but not all greeted their message with open arms. Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise, questioned the men on why they feel Idaho schools should push students away from 4-year college degrees into professional-technical programs. In response, Luna said that regardless of where students land after high school, they must have the skill set necessary to succeed in every aspect of life.
"We need to make sure students don’t perceive high school as nothing more than college prep, because most of them don’t see themselves as going to college," said Luna adding that he wants to ensure Idaho students don't lose interest in high school because they see no value in the educational experience.
"There is nothing wrong with an ed system that encourages everyone to go on to some type of post-secondary education, but it’s not always going to be a four-year degree," said Luna.
(Note: Superintendent Tom Luna had a busy day Tuesday. Click here to watch Luna's speech on behalf of Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward or here to read about Luna's speech to South Junior High students in Boise.)