Russell Joki: Parents not to blame for education problems

August 2, 2013 

Marty Peterson took parents to task for the failure of public schools as “the party that actually deserves most of the blame.”

He suggested “using test scores to determine whether parents are allowed a tax deduction for their child.”

He abused Idaho parents as incompetent fools who do not value quality schools, let alone find time to engage their kids as “intelligent adults.”

Hogwash! Buck passing! Fraudulent research!

In fact, Idaho parents should be praised for boot-strapping school district tax burdens and for fighting the stupidity of education reform. They advocate for quality education and trust professional educators.

Yet Peterson used ink and oxygen to ventilate against the bedrock of Idaho education. Had Peterson used Idaho data instead of out-of-state internet browsing, he would have found this:

From Idaho’s 2013 Kids Count: Percent of single working mothers with children under 5—72%. Percentage of children not attending pre-school—65%. Percentage of parents who lack steady employment—31%. Percentage of children in poverty—25%. Single parent rate—26%.

From the Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations 2013 report on post-secondary barriers: No 1 reason kids don’t go to college—cost, closely followed by the failure of the Legislature and State Board to provide school counselors, scholarships and statewide culture supportive of education and employment internships.

But Marty thinks parents are education's root problem.

He forgets that parents are targeted by schools to get out the YES vote in 85 of 114 districts with supplemental levies. Are parents accountable for the fact that 75% of school districts are underfunded? Superintendents know that without parents levies are doomed.

Yet these are the same parents who are turned away the first day of school because they cannot afford to pay enrollment and activity fees.

The Idaho Constitution, Article 9, Section 1, guarantees a FREE public education, but parents are forced to sue the legislature and school districts to receive it.

Peterson condemned parents for “inattentive parenting, not reading to their kids, not checking homework, or simply talking to kids.” How does he know so much about the lives of parents, especially those who are disadvantaged and poor?

Then he used the oldest red herring of all: “Students spend less than 15% of their time in school. How about the remaining 85%?”

Quick lesson, Marty: The 15% is stupid math, calculated on a 24/7, full year basis by educators hiding failures. Truth is, during prime daylight hours, schools control our kids about 65% of the time during the mandated nine month school year.

Memo, Marty: Kids also go to church, hang out with friends, and, so important to educators— sleep at least 8 hours a day. And, also so important to many businesses—many teens have jobs before and after school.

So, Marty, who is “the party that actually deserves most of the blame?” Let’s spread it around a bit, shall we?

The Idaho Legislature and State Board establish curriculum and length of year, not parents. Local districts cut weeks out of year for “staff- training” and “weather,” not parents. The system continually changes testing requirements and teacher standards, not parents.

The truth of the matter is this: Idaho’s parents are not failures. They are the state’s public education heroes. Without support of parents—as classroom volunteers, legislative advocates, activity boosters, and levy voters—public schools would collapse.

To blame parents for the failures of schools is specious, duplicitous, and disturbing editorializing from a retired member of the University of Idaho’s executive staff and now director of the McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

Peterson’s comments did accomplish one thing: They informed readers about the quality of thinking at the UI and the McClure Center.

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