The recent full page ads in newspapers around the state establishes the battle lines over the Luna referendum next month. Its a union of millionaires who will profit immensely from the Luna referendums, against parents and teachers who stand for quality in education, with the children of Idaho as the victims.
The ads bring to mind the famous charge by attorney Joseph Welch when facing the Communist-baiting Joe McCarthy, Wisconsins alcoholic, mentally demented senator. Welch reply to McCarthys attempt to smear yet another innocent American, Senator, have you no shame?
To the perpetrators of the recent full-page ads we ask the same question. The ads, filled with outright lies, denigrate teachers and insult the mentality of Idaho voters.
The teachers organization is not run by "bosses." Its leaders are chosen in a democratic process involving elected delegates and committees. Not one staff member or elected officer of the IEA will benefit one dime regardless of the referendum outcome. Association leaders, teachers, parents and many others are concerned about the negative impact these laws will make on childrens schooling, not on personal profit.
The major elements of Lunas ill-conceived laws are pay for performance, elimination of academic freedom for teachers, increasing class size, requiring all children to take impersonal, robotic, online courses, and providing cheap laptops to children.
Research and the experience of districts or states who have experimented with these ideas clearly reveal that none relate to improving the quality of education.
Online courses have become extremely profitable for providers. For some, even young children, they can be of value but most students need supervision, interaction and support which live teachers can provide, assuming the class size is not excessive.
Pay for performance is a waste of money. Effective teachers are already doing their best. Throwing more money at them wont change that. Every child deserves an effective teacher. Better to assure that every teacher is effective by spending more for mentoring, supervisory and developmental programs.
Technology can, and always has, been a valuable teaching tool. Rather than laptops, if money is available it should be used for those resources teachers identify and will use. However, class size, not resources, is the most important single factor in providing quality learning.
Academic freedom, the right for teachers to teach rather than indoctrinate is inherent in the American way. A democracy cannot survive when run by demagogues. Currently, there are those with wealth who seek to privatize the public schools for their own lustful profit and will trade our way of life for their ill gotten gains.
Anti-school people cite their opposition to paying for schools with the lament that "throwing money at schools wont improve quality. Lunas efforts certainly lend credence to that lament. On the other hand, without money, school quality will not improve. Lunas agenda illustrates the danger of just spending money, but not spending it wisely.
The funds dedicated to laptops and performance pay could provide an additional reading teacher for every school district, or could fund additional teachers to reduce class size in crowded classrooms, or could provide current textbooks and/or e-books for thousands of students, or could fund aides to free up teachers and provide more time for planning and individual tutoring.
The vote on Novembers referendum will indicate where Idaho voters stand on supporting, Idahos public schools, Idahos teachers, and Idahos future.
Lilburn E. Wesche, Ed.D., is director of public information for the Common Sense Democracy Foundation of Idaho, a group opposing the Students Come First education laws.