Thomas Jefferson once said, “I predict future happiness for Americans, if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
This quote was never more true than during Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State.
Though we should applaud the governor’s sincere commitment to education and the success of this state’s children, we should keep it short. Otter’s demoralizing desire to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and expand the current ineffective education system should seriously concern all Idahoans.
When Idaho students are scoring lower than ever on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and high school graduation rates are in the tank, we shouldn’t simply toss more money at education, we should be making it more effective. Otter requested a nearly 8 percent increase in public education funding over last year, with an additional $38 million for the career ladder, a recommendation from the Governor’s Task Force on Education.
Further, he wants $10.7 million for intervention support for kindergarten through third grade students who are testing below proficiency in reading.
Clearly the governor recognizes Idaho’s students are not receiving the education they need to succeed now and in the future. Rather than making sensible reforms to the system, the governor seems to want to throw millions of dollars at the problems in hopes they will go away.
In fact, the governor made no mention of making education more effective or accountable. While there is absolutely no doubt that teachers are an intrinsic part of a child’s education, evaluations of performance should hold teachers accountable. Instead of focusing on systemic reforms, the governor will sink an additional $38 million into the already $125-million-dollar career ladder salary law that has proven to have little to no value.
Under Idaho’s teacher evaluation system, educators can earn scores of “distinguished,” “proficient,” “basic” or “unsatisfactory.” Scores constitute a major factor in teachers’ ability to move up and down the career ladder, and thus earn more or less money. However, in the 2014-15 school year, 19,388 teachers were evaluated. In all, 17,162 teachers were proficient. Why would the governor continue to spend money on a program that allows teachers to move up in pay when the evaluation system is faulty at best?
Otter’s proposed budget suggests the Legislature waste the labors of the Idahoans who worked so hard to get the economy back on its feet. Let’s hope legislators recognize that this budget does not create an environment for students to be successful, but rather it represents the opportunity to frivolously spend money.