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Students must come first

Guest Opinion
by Bob Shillingstad
Coeur d’Alene Press
October 8, 2012

We will all be faced with a deciding vote on the first steps of education reform in November and it is important that everyone understand what is proposed and what is at stake. Idahoans will vote on three referenda aimed at repealing what may be one of the most sweeping education reforms in the country.

First, understand the problem. A report released a few months ago by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce ranked Idaho as one of the four worst states in terms of the percentage of students who enroll and complete a four-year degree. Jeanne Allen, president of the D.C.-based Center for Education Reform, lays out the case like this:

“In states like this, the assumption is all is well. The reality is they’ve simply been going through the motions for years, and the result is a kind of Third World education status.”

Here is a summary of what education reform under “Students Come First” does:

* Aims to change our culture by getting control over costs and elevating achievement. Thus the so-called Luna laws now restrict collective bargaining to salary and benefits, phases out tenure and force teacher contract negotiations out in the open. They also eliminate a practice that across America operates largely to protect bad teachers and keep good ones out of the classroom: the last hired, first fired system of seniority.

* The other two prongs of Students Come First deal mostly with quality. New merit pay provisions mean that teachers can earn up to $8,000 a year extra for serving in hard to fill positions or helping their schools boost student achievement. The technology part has to do with ensuring that students and teachers in any part of Idaho have access to the best

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NC Senate Approves Overhaul Bill

“NC public school changes approved by Senate”
by Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press
News & Observer
June 4, 2012

The Republican-led North Carolina Senate gave its final approval Monday evening to a public school overhaul bill after a Democratic amendment was defeated that would have deleted the measure’s proposed end to teacher tenure and weakened merit pay requirements.

The Senate passed the legislation on a party-line vote of 31-17, with GOP leaders calling the measure necessary to improve test scores, graduation rates and reading proficiency among children in early grades. But Democrats said the changes would demoralize teachers already discouraged by job losses, no pay raises since 2008 and other GOP-backed changes last year.

The Democrats’ amendment was defeated by the same margin as the full bill. Senate leader Phil Berger, a primary sponsor of the bill, called the Democratic ideas well-intentioned but “really represent a defense of the status quo.”

“What this bill tries to do is take us away from the status quo,” the Rockingham Republican said later in the debate.

The bill would scrap the current tenure system for veteran teachers that Republicans argue makes it difficult to fire teachers when administrators determine they are ineffective and gives them contracts of one to four school years. All teachers would get one-year contracts during this next school year. Tenure supporters argue that teachers need protections from political or other unfair firings.

The bill also would require school districts to create their own bonus or merit-pay programs to reward the most effective teachers. A program also would provide reading-intensive instruction in early grades. Most third-graders who didn’t show reading proficiency on tests by the end of third grade would be held back.

The bill now heads to the House. Republicans there have said they like the bill’s concepts but that there may not be enough time this

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