Experts predict that by 2020, 63 percent of Idaho jobs will require a career certificate or college degree. Currently only 34 percent of Idaho adults ages 25-34 have an associate degree or higher. For our young people to compete in an ever-changing global economy, we must prepare them to obtain higher levels of education.
Clearly, the gap separating Idaho education today and our projected workforce needs is daunting. Idaho Business for Education, a not-for-profit organization whose membership consists of Idaho business CEOs, presidents and managing partners, advocates for reform of Idahos education system in order to bridge this gap and ensure the success of our students, businesses and our state.
How will significant change in Idaho education happen? How will we move from 34 percent today having a post-secondary degree or certificate to 60 percent? We believe this: Lasting education reform will not occur easily and, in our judgment, will not occur at all without two critical elements.
Collaborative processes. Mutually aligned initiatives need to be established to accomplish these education goals.
Key ingredients to the success of collaborative processes are teachers. They are Idahos greatest asset in the education of our young. They are the ones most responsible for carrying out education reform. But all education stakeholders must be involved the State Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the governors office, the Legislature, school districts, higher education, teachers, parents, nonprofits and businesses.
An example of a successful collaboration is the Treasure Valley Education Partnership (TVEP), which involves district superintendents, teachers, businesses, parents, students, school boards, nonprofits, government, higher education and foundations in a cradle-to-career framework. TVEP aligns stakeholders around a shared set of goals, metrics and processes.
Stable funding. Idaho state government needs to prioritize the work of stabilizing and seeking fiscal sustainability of Idaho education funding. School districts need consistent stable funding and an appropriate degree of local autonomy in order to implement education reform and ultimately improve student performance. We cannot significantly improve education in Idaho without stable, sustainable funding.
Students Come First is a first step in reforming Idaho education.
We understand that many view the legislation as flawed but note that a process for making corrections, modifications and improvements has been built into the law. Further, we agree the process of bringing Students Come First to fruition from original drafting to introduction to legislative debate to implementation failed at critical junctures to sufficiently involve key stakeholders, especially teachers.
Despite any flaws in the legislation and the imperfect process, we believe repeal of Students Come First would be unwise. It would, in our judgment, further impede progress toward our shared goals, and, unfortunately, time is not on our side. Thus, we support the framework of Students Come First and urge all education stakeholders to work together to ensure its successful implementation, including needed refinements.
Our states future prosperity is directly tied to the quality of our childrens education. Lets work together to build the best education system in the country.
Ed Dahlberg is president and Diana Lachiondo is executive director of Idaho Business for Education. IBE, formerly the Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence, has advocated for improved Idaho education since 2004.