CALDWELL — With less than two weeks until election day, and hours after a $180 million technology contract announcement between the state and Hewlett-Packard, arguments for and against the Students Come First reforms remained unchanged Tuesday during a forum at the Langroise Center on The College of Idaho campus.
Representatives from both sides of the debate voiced their positions, in front of a packed house, via a question and answer format. The Yes for Idaho Education campaign was represented by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and former Caldwell School District Superintendent Randy Schrader. The Vote No Prop 1, 2, 3 campaign was represented by paid spokesperson and retiring Rep. Brian Cronin and Boise parent and campaign chair Mike Lanza.
Throughout the evening, Luna emphasized that each proposition is part of comprehensive education reform that brings Idaho classrooms into the 21st century and furthers student achievement.
But Cronin and Lanza disagreed, saying it is a “top-down, one-size-fits-all” plan that, since its inception, never included teacher input.
PROP. 1: NEGOTIATIONS
Prop. 1 limits bargaining to salary and negotiations, Luna said, and gives districts the ability to make decisions that best suit their needs. The problem, Lanza said, is Prop. 1 stifles teachers’ voices.
“I want my kids’ teachers to be able to bring their perspectives as an educator to the process of how my kids’ schools are managed,” Lanza said.
While teachers can speak with administrations regarding school issues, and implement policy based on those discussions, the district is not required to bind non-salary, non-benefit issues to a contract.
PROP. 2: MERIT PAY
Cronin, who was a teacher for a brief period, said what made teachers “great teachers” in his district was teacher mentoring — not motivating teachers by money.
Prop. 2 provides legislative funding for pay-for-performance bonuses to qualified teachers.
“If we’re going to treat them (teachers) like professionals, let’s give them professional development,” Cronin said.
Luna said as one part of the pay-for-performance plan, bonuses are distributed to teachers in leadership roles. A leadership role can be in the form of teacher mentoring or developing curriculum, along with other locally-decided roles, Luna said. The major problem with Prop. 2, Luna said, is teachers are receiving money that a union did not negotiate for them.
PROP. 3: TECHNOLOGY
Prop. 3 provides every high school student with a laptop from HP. It will also require high school students to take at least two online courses to graduate.
Cronin and Lanza said the money used for unproven technology methods could be better-used elsewhere.
Luna said the technology provides equal access to every student in any district across the state. Funding for the laptops, he said, comes from new legislative money and a reallocation of funds, and does not — as Prop. 3 opponents have claimed — force districts to propose supplemental levies.
“We haven’t provided laptops to students yet, so if these supplemental levies are happening, it’s not because of technology,” Luna said.
The event was co-sponsored by the Idaho Press-Tribune, KBOI-TV2, The College of Idaho and the Nampa and Caldwell Chambers of Commerce.