Category Archives: Uncategorized

2016 Idaho Education Reviewed, and 2017 Previewed: A Teacher’s Perspective

My crystal ball was rather cloudy last year. I had predicted that the major focus of the 2016 legislature would focus on taxation, largely by decreasing the highest marginal tax rate for the wealthiest in the Gem State. I thought education would take a backseat.

And while there certainly was discussion of updating Idaho’s tax code, those conversations fizzled like Democrats in their elections this year.

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Fixing Charter Schools Requires Sacrifice

ComThe Editorial Board of the Idaho Press Tribune made an excellent decision a week ago in drawing attention to the chronic disparity regarding minority student enrollment in Idaho’s charter schools in comparison to their local school districts, and information regarding the Civil Rights Complaint issued by Idaho’s Centro de Communidad Y Justicia (Center for Community and Justice).

However, that particular editorial left the impression that the cause of the disparity was minority parents and students simply not being properly informed that charter schools, as public schools, are a choice for their families as well.

And while dissemination of information to these communities is certainly a required element in solving this problem, it is only one very small fraction of a comprehensive solution; this imbalance requires charters to actually be a “choice” for minority populations, and that requires charter schools to offer genuine minority services that would embrace true inclusion.

That means that charter schools have to offer bus transportation services to make charter schools a “choice” for families juggling multiple jobs that create barriers for them transporting their own children, particularly single parent families.  When charter schools such as Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy, the second largest brick and mortar charter in Idaho, fail to offer transportation services to their students, it inherently stops becoming a “choice” for those families.

It means that charter schools must provide free and reduced lunch services to their students, particularly for families relying on these meals for their child’s nutrition.  When charter schools like the Academy Public Charter in Pocatello fail to offer free and reduced lunch services to their students, it inherently stops becoming a “choice” for those low-income families.

It requires that charter schools offer true research-based interventions and services for students with disabilities; a special education student has just as much right to a resource teacher, school psychologist, speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, and transition counselors in charter schools as in public schools; a disability, no matter the severity, should never turn a student away from attending a charter.

It demands that charter schools provide materials and services in languages reflective of their community; this means an effort should be made to locate large non-English speaking populations, and make sure that materials are equitably provided to those populations in those languages.  While Spanish-speaking populations certainly constitute a sizable demographic, it is also important to remember that Idaho is also home to sizable refugee populations in Boise and Twin Falls that must also be provided an equitable “choice” in student enrollment.

It stipulates that the preference system utilized during “lottery” drawings for student applications be addressed.  Between preferences allowed for founder’s children, employee’s children, siblings of children already enrolled, and this year’s new law that gives preference to any child enrolled in any charter in the state ahead of a student that was not enrolled in a charter, few true open “lottery” slots are open for new student enrollment.

If the existing charter is overwhelmingly white, affluent, and English speaking–and the data overwhelmingly indicates charters in Idaho are–then the preferences result in a demographic that simply replicates itself from year to year making it difficult for charters to become more reflective of their surrounding communities.

If we want charter schools to offer opportunity for our students to perform interactions with peers of different ethnicities, languages, incomes, and disabilities as the law mandates, it requires us to make some changes to the existing system.  If we want our students to live in largely homogeneous mono-cultures of students exactly like themselves, then leave the system as it is.

It’s time for us to make a positive choice for Idaho’s students.

 

2015 Idaho Education Association Delegate Assembly

20150411_123431After 2 days of vigorous debate, jokes, and stories, the 123rd annual  Idaho Education Association Delegate Assembly came to a close.

Teachers from the entire state descended on Boise for the weekend for the event in what is billed as the largest democratic electing body in Idaho aside from the general election in the state.

Penni Cyr addressed the assembly with a convocation that this is the year of “What teachers make.”  A salary, it seems, is the last thing on a teachers mind when asked what an educator makes. Continue reading

Guest Post: Recent Funding Increase Improves Idaho’s Education

Guest post submitted by Rachael Everly

In 2010 Idaho’s State Board of Education and business leaders set an objective of having at least 60% of Idahoans holding a postsecondary degree by 2020 while currently the percentage stands at 41%. This is definitely an ambitious goal, needing a lot of efforts and improvement to arrive at. With the recession just having affected the state, economists are trying to look for methods that would allow for sustained growth. One of the key elements that play a part in this is state funded education and loan accumulation. Many analysts have pointed at the need for having a sustainable rehabilitation from loans for students, citing it as one of the cripplers for the newer applicants in the job market. One such method is through improving education and worker skills as that would provide the state with labor who knows how to operate within the contemporary and highly technologically advanced economy. In fact the objective mentioned above was set after a 2010 study conducted by Georgetown University concluded that at least 60% of the jobs by 2020 will require the employees to be having post-secondary qualifications. Since such a competitive environment needs well-educated workforce, improving education is one way to fulfill that demand. The following table lists the percentage of jobs that are expected to be available in 2018 according to educational qualifications.

 

Idaho has recently received a budget increase for their public school funding and it is a perfect move in light of the set goals. A 7.4% increase in the public school funding was approved as part of the 2015-16’s state budget. This makes up $1.476 billion and 48% of the state’s general fund budget expenses. There had been a serious cut in the public school funding of Idaho by almost quarter of a billion dollars between 2009 and 2011. The recent rise in budget should provide slight relief to this cut. This budget increase approval did not need any discussion and was done with quickly because efforts are being made to support public schools for which collaboration is needed. The budget committee tried to save funds in other budgeted areas so that more could be spent on public education. In spite of this there were seven votes received against the budget and these voters did

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Data Shows Disparity in Minority Student Enrollment at Idaho’s Charter Schools

Supt. Ybarra addresses pro-charter supporters at a Boise, Idaho rally.

Supt. Ybarra addresses pro-charter supporters at a Boise, Idaho rally.

Part 1 of a multi-part series.  Part 2 will focus on Special Education students in Idaho’s charters.  Stay tuned.  Edit: Original post identified Taylor’s crossing as being in Idaho Falls District; it is in Bonneville District and post has been updated to reflect this.

Shortly after inauguration, one of Superintendent Ybarra’s first public events was to demonstrate her support for Idaho’s growing number of charter schools.  Betsy Russell in the Spokesman Review reported Ybarra telling the crowd:

Instead of pitting charter schools and traditional schools against one another … we must instead build a bridge of communication to one another so that we can take the best from each educational option and create successful, effective options for all

That message is a great piece of wisdom that (hopefully) indicates a willingness by the current administration to address the current picture of charter schools in Idaho; that is because the most recent student enrollment data of Idaho’s charters indicates an enormous disparity of racial and special needs enrollment in Idaho’s charters in comparison to the surrounding public school district that desperately needs to be addressed.

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Update: Frankenstein, Idaho’s 40 Million Data Monster is Aliv…err…Dead?

640px-Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)The J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation executive director, Roger Quarles, recently announced that the foundation will shift their philanthropic spending away from education and more towards community spending projects.

If anyone was shocked by this move, they shouldn’t have been; the foundation lost over 20 million dollars last year in an educational data tracking project they had no business involving themselves in.

Albertson blindly ignored the advice of the federal government warning against giving money to the ill-thought-out project up when the US Dept. Of Ed refused to issue Idaho a grant for a longitudinal data tracking system citing a myriad of problems with Idaho’s proposal.

Despite this warning, Albertson ponied up over 20 million dollars in cash for the project themselves…dollars that were so dysfunctionally spent the foundation is now refusing to give another dime to the project.

A little context here: See, a few months ago I took on the task of calculating the total cost of ISEE/Schoolnet, Idaho’s longitudinal student and teacher data tracking system.

Not only did a narrative of a taxpayer checkbook out of control quickly become apparent with the project bloating even the wildest projections of cost to develop (upwards of 42 million and counting), but an additional narrative of total dysfunction also emerged.

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Teach For America OpEd – Teacher Travis Manning

Travis Manning portraitTravis Manning, a local teacher in Caldwell, wrote an interesting OpEd piece in the Press Tribine critical of TFA’s 50 million dollar profit margin, all the awhile claiming to be an altruistic nonprofit entity.

Said Manning,

In May 2013, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton rejected a line-item grant of $1.5 million to fund TFA teachers, citing lack of competition in the application process. Dayton noted TFA’s $50 million profit margin in 2011 and wondered why it would need state assistance (read: corporate welfare) to fund teachers.

Be sure to check out the full article by Manning at the Idaho Press Tribune online.