I’m not sure if State Supt. Tom Luna’s plan for public schools will be good for Idaho, but there must be some merit to it since the Idaho Education Association (IEA) opposed to it.
In terms of structure and culture, the IEA operates with a ‘50s mentality – the 1850s, that is. The overall philosophy is there are no good teachers, nor bad teachers. All should be treated the same, and tenure (which provides long-term job security) is the holy grail for educators.
In discussing Luna’s plan, IEA President Sherri Wood wrote, “Most concerning of all, the plan was formulated with virtually no input from the dedicated teachers of our state: the real experts in the classroom.”
I could imagine what would happen if IEA representatives were at the table. You could count on them to say “no” to slmost everything, including the phasing out of teacher tenure.
I ascribe to the thinking of former Education Secretary Bill Bennett. He said that almost anybody can go into any school, talk to administrators, teachers, kids and janitors, and find out in a short time who are the best teachers and who are the worst.
In Bennett’s mind – and I agree – you can’t pay the quality teachers enough. Bennett said that public education will not go anywhere unless we figure how to pay those quality teachers what they are worth and get rid of the bad teachers.
When I think about Bennett’s statements, I think back to my school days more than 40 years ago at Coeur d’Alene High School. I was fortunate to have some excellent teachers who taught values that I carry with me today. But there also were some real stinkers – people who had no control in their classrooms and no business being in the teaching profession. Those teachers tended to stay around forever, probably because of tenure. Talking with friends who have kids in schools, I doubt if the culture has changed in more than 40 years.
Luna’s plan goes beyond tenure and merit pay. His plan includes increasing the use of technology, giving students a better competitive advantage and generally making the education system work during a time of tight budgets and cost cutting.
“You cannot cut the current system any more,” Luna told the Idaho Statesman. “So the Legislature either has to have the political will to raise taxes to fund the current system or the political will to change the current system. As I see it, those are the two real choices that they have.”
The IEA apparently sees only one path – to fight for the status quo and continue to complain about budget cuts.