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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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