The state of our economy and our prosperity a decade hence hinges on our vote next week. Why? Because Idahos ninth- graders enter the workforce in 2020 when 63 percent of the jobs created in Idaho will require a postsecondary education (a one, two- or four-plus- year degree). Today only 34 percent of our work force has that level of education. We must double the number in the next eight to 10 years, and time is not on our side. To impact the work force in 2020, we must act now. If we dont have an educated work force, businesses will stagnate or leave the state. This is already happening today in the technology sector, and the problem is getting worse every year.
Idaho is in the bottom five states nationally in nearly every postsecondary metric that matters: go-on rate, drop-out rate, and completion rate. Our high school students are not prepared for the future. We have a huge gap to close, and it will take a long time to do so.
Every month good jobs are exiting Idaho because we dont have the right people to fill them. Businesses are leaving the state because they cant get the skilled workers they need to grow here in Idaho. Both the Idaho Technology Council and Idaho Business for Education researched the Students Come First laws; both invited proponents and opponents to present. After all their research and debate, both organizations came to the same conclusion: yes on 1, yes on 2, and yes on 3. Across two independent task forces and two executive committees, the combined votes of these organizations were an overwhelming 73 yes votes, four no.
Prop 1 has been primarily criticized for two reasons. First, that it silences teachers which is simply an insult to administrators and school board members. School administrators meet daily, weekly and monthly with teachers throughout the year. They all care deeply about students, teachers, and about getting the best outcomes. The notion that teachers only have a voice once a year during the collective bargaining process is patently absurd. The second criticism is that these limits to labor negotiations are unfair. But critics ignore the fact that the old methods are failing our children miserably. Our education system was designed in the 1950s and the labor practices are even older. These practices have created a system which has proven unable to adapt to the evolving needs of the economy. This is evidenced by how poorly the system has adapted to the science, math, and technology shortfalls well understood for more than a decade.
Prop 3 is the technology bill. But laptops and wireless classrooms are simply tools. The real issue here is the efficiency and effectiveness of our education system. In the last 30 years, nearly all labor-intensive service industries have dramatically increased productivity. But in K-12 education over that same time period, we spend twice the money per student and achieve no better results. This is about enabling the transformation of our education system. The loudest criticism of this technology is the cost. But we are talking about approximately $20 million out of nearly $2 billion annual budget. The argument that we should not spend 2 percent of the budget to enable transformational change for every Idaho high school is precisely the mindset that will keep Idaho locked into an antiquated system that is today failing our children and our state. We dont have deep pockets here in Idaho thats why we need every possible advantage to enhance teacher productivity and student outcomes. Vote yes, give our children and businesses a chance.
Bob Lokken is the CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics and a successful, longtime Idaho entrepreneur. He serves as member of the executive boards of the Idaho Technology Council and Idaho Business for Education. This rebuttal was submitted on behalf of Yes for Idaho Education.