Wanted: Collaboration on Idaho Education Reform

The defeat of three education propositions sends a message to the Idaho Legislature.

by / November 9, 2012 0

Idaho voters signaled that they want more of a voice in education decisions in their state as they voted down three propositions on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

In 2011, the Idaho Legislature passed three laws that addressed technology spending, teacher evaluations and contract negotiations, among other things. And Proposition 1 through 3 asked voters whether they wanted to approve or reject that legislation.

They overwhelmingly rejected the legislation by voting "no" on the propositions at a rate of 57 to 66 percent. But that doesn't mean that Idaho residents are against education reform. The coalition against the propositions reacted more to how the decisions were made, as well as pieces of the legislative content, said Phil Kelly, a professor of curriculum instruction in the College of Education at Boise State.

Most of the people he has spoken with said there were good things in all three proposals, Kelly said. But the Legislature and the governor need to collaborate with and involve teachers, parents and business interests when making major changes.

In the case of Proposition 3, Section 33-1627 of S1184 requires the state education department to work out a contract that provides a mobile computing device for each student and teacher in high schools across the state. And on Oct. 23, Idaho released the details of an eight-year, $180 million contract awarded to Hewlett-Packard to do just that.

"I think one of the things that contributed to the downfall of Proposition 3 was the release of the details of the Hewlett-Packard contract," Kelly said. "A lot of people who I think normally probably would have supported it balked at that point."

Students do need to develop technological skills that will help them in the future, Kelly said. But voters clearly said that they want to play a part in deciding how and with what price tag those skills are developed.

"Idaho education needs educational reform," Kelly said, "and hopefully through what happened on Tuesday, the state superintendent and the state legislative leaders will approach this in a more collaborative manner than they have in the past."

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.