Education in Idaho: Here we go again? The process matters
Statesman Editorial board
December 7, 2012
One month ago Thursday, Idaho voters emphatically rejected the Tom Luna K-12 overhaul, rejecting both the content and the secretive, top-down method in which it was presented.
But that, evidently, was just so November.
On Wednesday, Gov. Butch Otter said he was ready to try to rescue pieces of the failed Propositions 1, 2 and 3. "There were parts and pieces of every one of those that folks did want," Otter said at an Associated Taxpayers of Idaho conference. "There will be some early ideas that come forth."
Such as what? Otter isn't saying.
Under normal circumstances, that would be just part of the annual kabuki dance. The Associated Taxpayers of Idaho confab serves as an unofficial prelude to the legislative session - headlined by a sneak preview of the governor's session-opening State of the State address.
But here, the history matters. In 2011, Luna trotted out Students Come First, his K-12 overhaul, with no runup and no consultation with stakeholders. Even Otter offered only scant details in his 2011 State of the State address. The process bred distrust and skepticism - and was no small factor in the laws' defeat at the polls.
There's still a month before Jan. 7, and Otter's 2013 State of the State address. That's a month to collaborate - and, after the election, Otter said it's time to bring together the stakeholders. That's a month to lay groundwork. Unless, of course, Otter's mind is already made up.
And where does Otter find the mandate to resuscitate three laws so soundly defeated by the electorate? He says he has seen encouraging polling numbers. The polling was done by Education Voters of Idaho, one of the big-money backers of Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Group spokesman John Foster refused to divulge poll details.
At least Foster's consistent. This is the same group that only released its list of campaign donors under a court order. Where there's secrecy in education policy, can Education Voters of Idaho be far behind?
Certainly, there are components of the Luna Students Come First laws that deserve to be brought back: good ideas that can stand on their own and make Idaho schools more responsive to changing times and future needs. But the process matters. On Nov. 6, Idaho voters tried to send that message and teach that lesson.
Of course, that was a whole month ago.
The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.
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