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Political Wisdom from Momma Shaffer

I (Scary) graduated in Political Science so I often take an academic approach to politics. I try and hear both sides of an issue and then weigh it in my mind until I have settled on the side that I am most comfortable with. Right now in the State of Idaho we have 3 resolutions that are referendum, most of the advertising has been in support of these three pieces of legislation. I was talking to Momma and I learned so much about the other side of the issue that I asked Momma to join us today and express her opinion.

I believe this is most important election in which I have ever been able to vote. On the national level, we have huge contrasts between the candidates for President and it is our responsibility to study, pray, and vote our conscience. The man who is elected will not only lead our country and set the course of history throughout this century but he will also appoint up to six new Supreme Court judges. As I read my scriptures and ponder and pray over those truths, I realize there will be great or grave consequences to our decision.
At the state level, our vote is no less important. There has been much propaganda broadcast on each side of Propositions 1, 2, and 3. Much of this is designed to deceive people and confuse the issues. (See sources 1 and 2) HJR 2 and SJR 102 have largely been ignored. This too can confuse us about the issues. I am sharing this post because my daughter asked me to share my opinions on the propositions.

I must admit that the first time Tom Luna ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction, I voted for him. After seeing many of the disheartening and unproductive changes he was making in the schools, I did not vote for his reelection. Those who have taken the DWA and the DMA know that they were far better measures of proficiency than the untimed multiple choice ISAT. I have seen students put their heads down and push computer keys without reading the questions. At the time Mr. Luna ran for reelection, he campaigned on how well the state of Idaho was doing. Soon after his election, he began the push for the “Students Come First” initiatives.

We educators have always believed that “Students Come First!” These initiatives are not the way we believe we can actually put students first. We are not in education because we can become rich but because we love children and young people and believe that we can help them to grow in confidence, skills, knowledge, and performance to become the citizens and leaders of tomorrow. I don’t believe there is a limit to what a child can or should learn. We give them the tools and teach them how to use and sharpen them and then shine light on the possibilities that lie before them.
For the record, I began my teaching career in 1974 and took two and a half decades off to raise my children to be good citizens and contributing members of society. I am not and have never been a member of the teachers’ union. I asked for input from some of the teachers and administration with whom I work. One of them is a member of the IEA.
Following this, I asked those personally involved with the issues addressed in HJR 2 and SJR 102 about their understanding of how that legislation would affect them and the rest of us. This may come across as a bit dry to some of you but all of this legislation will ultimately affect you and your children. I would also suggest looking to see who owns your local media and how that may be affecting the messages you are receiving on the ballot issues.
Proposition 1
My opinion:
I feel this is a dangerous proposition because it takes away the protection of due process. If an educator has upset an administrator or if a disgruntled parent starts rumors in the community about him, he could lose his job.  This law would also make it illegal for educators to negotiate about safety issues or overcrowded classrooms. This week, I was in Boise at a conference filled with educators, and one of the teachers from Pocatello shared some interesting news. Because of budget cuts, their district had let teachers go which in turn increased class size, now the district is in trouble with the state inspectors for overcrowding in the classroom.
From Ryan:
Proposition 1- Anti Union Bill.  Idaho is a right to work state and has been since 1985.  About 60% of Idaho’s teachers belong to the union.  This prop limits the power of teachers to negotiate with the school board on anything expect for salary and benefits.  I am not affiliated with the union and don’t always agree with the union but I do think all sides of any issue should be accorded a voice and acknowledge that the union has done much good for Idaho.  It is amazing to me that nearly all of the ads that I have heard promoting these three props do not discuss the underlying merits but instead attack the union and focus on prop 1.  This is a wise political strategy by the state because if the citizenry looked at these propositions outside of any political influence the props would be dead in the water. 
Prop 1 also claims to get rid of tenure so that Idaho can get rid of bad teachers.  There actually is no tenure for any teacher in Idaho as per state law.   There are some due process protections for teachers who have a renewable contract that the state is seeking to change.  I am a big fan of due process.  A renewable contract simply means that you can expect to have your job the following year after three years of good service unless the district/school informs you otherwise.  It is in no way a guarantee that you have a job for life.  Teachers’ contracts are for one school year only.  As it is, administrators can dismiss a poor teacher by putting them on probation after documenting deficiencies.   Once they come off of probation they can be let go even if they showed improvement.  If there are poor teachers at a school it is the administrator’s job to get rid of them.  If there are poor administrators at a school it is the school boards job to get rid of them.  If there is a poor school board member then it is the community’s job to replace that person.   
From Wayne:
Teachers are some of the lowest paid professionals in the state. Thanks to budget cuts, many are making less today than they did three years ago. Some have to take a second job just to pay their bills. Yet many teachers still dip into their own pockets and spend hundreds of dollars every year just to provide the basics in their overcrowded classrooms — like pens and paper– because Idaho’s schools have been shortchanged by Luna and the legislature.
Proposition 1 takes away teachers’ freedom to speak up on behalf of Idaho’s students. It makes it illegal for our teachers to discuss classroom funding issues with their own school administrators and it bans them from talking about overcrowding in their classrooms or school safety issues during contract negotiations.
Proposition 1 restricts the voice and limits the rights of Idaho’s teachers. This complicated, top-down mandate puts Idaho’s students last. In the year since Proposition 1 took effect, class sizes have gone up, and the State Department of Education reported that nearly twice as many Idaho teachers left the profession as in previous years. Proposition 1 prevents teachers from negotiating with their school administrators about anything except for wages and benefits. It prohibits teachers from speaking up about class-size limits, student safety protections, lesson-planning time, or funding for basic classroom supplies.
Proposition 1 takes away teachers’ voices. They’re in our children’s classrooms every day; they know what our kids need to stay safe and succeed.
From Neal (School Superintendent):
I’m voting no on Proposition 1 When we take negotiating power completely away from teachers we are no longer treating them as professionals. In most cases we have destroyed the positive working relationship between teachers and management.
Proposition 2
My opinion:
I would love to be paid for good performance but this is another misnomer. Excellent teachers in a poorly rated school will be penalized and poor teachers in excellent schools will be rewarded. We are being told that our wages will not be cut to pay for “pay for performance.” I must admit that from 2009 to 2011, my wages increased $480.16. This actually did not even cover the cost of the six credits I had to take to renew my teaching certificate and the fee for my teaching certificate. The state salary scale was moved backward for a year and then we were not moving up as we had previously done for any additional education we had obtained or additional experience.
I have seen the effects of positive community and educator input. I have personal knowledge of and have worked in a school where 90%-100% of the students throughout the school are proficient or advanced on their ISAT scores and juniors and seniors are averaging a score of 4 points above the state average on ACT tests. This school has received a 4 Star rating from the state. I also have personal knowledge of and have worked in a school that has received a 5 Star rating from the state with very few proficient or advanced ISAT scores and juniors and seniors that are averaging far below the state average on the ACT. This school received a 5 Star rating because of growth. Improvement is being counted as more important than continued excellence. I know for a fact that data has been manipulated to make things look good for the State of Idaho and Mr. Luna. One school that has received only a 4 Star rating but deserved a 5 Star is the Carey School, which has been chosen as one of only nine schools in Idaho to be honored by the State Board of Education. I am not able to get the state website to work so I can bring the results up to view at this time but I have seen them before and they are deceiving.
“Pay for Performance” has no way of evaluating and rewarding all disciplines fairly. It takes the history teacher, the health teacher, the music teacher, and every member of the team to have a school of excellence and an outstanding student body. All of us working together with positive role-modeling parents help to develop successful students. Choosing to minimize teacher pay with the empty promise of merit pay will make it very difficult to recruit and keep quality teachers in Idaho who do not have other strong ties in the state. I could not afford to teach if my husband didn’t have a job.
Many teachers’ children qualify for free or reduced lunch even though the teacher and spouse work during the summer as well as the school year. I have a master’s degree and have worked in every setting from a one room school to a junior college in Utah. I have taught kindergarteners through college sophomores. The truth is we are not greedy! We see ourselves as part of a very important team that has the well-being, growth and future of your children as our life mission. We teach because we love the children and young people we work with and because we believe we can be a positive force in their educational lives. Please try to put yourselves in a teacher’s shoes when you consider your vote on this proposition.
From Ryan:
Proposition 2-   Pay for performance for teachers.  I like the underlying theory, but the way the state is applying it does not reward teachers who work harder and do more. Prop 2 is based on a school’s performance on standardized testing and only covers three basic areas in two subjects.  Those areas are Reading and Language as per high school English and then math for the third area and second subject.  What then for the teacher who teaches history, science, computers, PE, etc.?  This is a school wide pay for performance plan determined by those three areas. There are some other ways to get pay for performance, but they all are dependent on the schools ISAT scores. This does not reward individual teachers for hard work. There could be a terrible teacher at a great school who gets pay for performance and a great teacher at a poor scoring school that does not get pay for performance.  In addition, pay for performance was originally funded by cutting teachers’ salaries. Currently there is no funding for Prop 2 except for as found in Prop 3 which is by far the weakest link.  
Pay for performance’s direct connection to Reading, Language, and Math scores on the ISAT penalize high achieving schools.  The states measurement for pay for performance is based solely on growth and not on overall ISAT scores.  High achieving schools that score in the 90th percentile and above will not be able to exhibit much growth.  Schools scoring much lower will have much more room to grow.  This is the case for the school that I work at.  We have always scored well on the ISAT. Neighboring schools have struggled with their scores but will be rewarded with pay for performance because their growth from the 45th percentile to 55th percentile is higher than our growth from the 90th percentile to the 92nd percentile.  Even though our school scores substantially higher that is not recognized by the state.  This would be like rewarding valedictorian honors to a student who raised their grades from F’s and D’s their senior year to C’s instead of the student who had the highest overall GPA.
From Wayne:
You don’t choose a career in teaching to become rich — especially in Idaho. You do it because you care. Teachers are more than just educators. They’re advocates and mentors for our children. They know what our kids need to succeed. Proposition 2 forces teachers to teach to the test instead of allowing them to inspire more creative thinking in our children.
Each child is unique. It takes a dedicated, caring and highly-trained teacher to reach them. We don’t want to treat students like widgets on an assembly line. We want to make sure our kids are good critical thinkers, not just good test takers.
Proposition 2 unfairly links teacher pay to misleading standardized testing, much like the failed federal No Child Left Behind law. This one-size-fits-all plan puts Idaho’s students and teachers last. Measuring teacher performance is important, but this is the wrong way to do it. With these rules, even more emphasis is put on a single test score, and students are treated like widgets coming off an assembly line. The fact is, each child is unique, and it takes a dedicated, caring, highly trained teacher to reach them. We need to make sure our children are good critical thinkers, not just good test takers.
This one-size-fits all mandate penalizes our schools and our kids because it will discourage the best and the brightest teachers from working in the schools that need them most.
From Neal (School Superintendent):
I’m voting no on Proposition 2.  A weak teacher in a good school can get a full amount of pay for performance from the accomplishment of others. While at the same time a master teacher teaching in a lower achieving school could receive no pay for performance money. The pay for performance money is only money that was deducted from the salary schedule.

Proposition 3
My opinion:
Students are already taking online classes. As we do not offer every class that students wish to take at our school, they currently are taking classes available through IDLA, IEN, CWI, and CSI. Although many students already have an IPAD and/or a laptop, we have the students work on these classes in the school computer lab. There are firewalls and other protections for the students’ safety installed, observed, and maintained by a highly trained school official. Supervision is already provided by a staff member to help maintain integrity and honesty. Even with these security measures there are problems that arise. Some students cheat by having someone else do their work for them outside of the school day. Other students are not able to complete their work without help from teachers at our school because they do not understand the instruction they have been given online, do not have enough supervised practicing of the concepts being taught, or do not receive a timely answer from their teachers. Online classes are a great tool to be used in addition to classroom teachers but not a good alternative. The problems our students run into are not a result of not knowing how to use the technology but more a result of needing to be able to bounce their ideas off one another and interact with teachers for further clarification. Also, a school still needs to hire individuals to supervise online students while they take these classes; however, the whole ADA for those periods when students take online classes goes to the providers and not the school. We have many more students who are weekly failing online courses than those who are taking classes from the in school teachers. They usually end up passing the classes in the end because the due dates for the online classes are much more lenient. I do not believe this helps prepare students for college where deadlines are generally set in concrete. I spent two days in Boise this week, where college representatives from throughout the state and community business leaders addressed the skills needed to be able to successfully complete college, not one of them said the students needed to learn to use or rely on more technology to be successful in college or work. The consensus was that they need to be given rigorous classes with the assistance needed to succeed, develop emotional maturity, and to learn to talk with and interact with people that are present instead of texting someone else.  
From Ryan:
Prop 3- Laptops for all.  If you like Obama-Care you will love this prop! There are at least 180 million reasons to vote against this prop.  Tom Luna signed a contract with HP that will cost the state of Idaho 180 million dollars over the next eight years to rent laptops.  It breaks down to about $300 a year to give each student, teacher, and administrator in every high school across the state a lap top.  (That comes out to $1200 per laptop for the typical high school student over their high school career and $2,400 per teacher over the life of the contract.)   This is big government spending at its best.  It creates another entitlement that tax payers get to foot the bill on.  The first year of funding for this project is from cuts to teachers pay which is tax payer money.  As tax revenue fluctuates over the next eight years, where will this money come from.  There is currently no revenue source earmarked for this expenditure.  Also the 180 million does not take into account lost or damaged laptops that the state will have to replace or repair.  Does this sound like fiscal conservatism?  If you vote yes on Prop 3 make sure that you pick up the phone to call your senator and house rep to encourage them to be more supportive of Obama-Care. 
Prop 3 also creates a graduation requirement for all high school students to take one online class during high school.  Every school in our neck of the woods big or small has a lab set up for students to take online classes.  Buying each student a laptop for one online class is the equivalent of buying each student a car to drive to school when we already have a fleet of busses that will get the job done.

Probably a third of our students at our school are taking, or have taken an online class with very mixed results.  For most students online classes in high school are a step backwards in instruction.   For example there is no immediate response from a teacher or classmates when the student has questions.  My daughter, Kelsie, is currently taking an online class that our school does not offer.  She has waited up to a week for a response from her teacher when she has emailed him with a question.  In addition to poor communication this is a learning forum that promotes cheating.  Students are allowed to use the Internet on quizzes and tests.  They can also take assessments multiple times until they are satisfied with their grade.  We have had issues with students doing other students assignments and turning them in to which the online provider turned a deaf ear. Online classes, done right, do have their place in education for self-motivated students but not as a once size fits all mandate.
Prop 3 also wastes money on providing teachers and administrators with a laptop.  Schools provide each teacher with a computer.  Why would they need a laptop in addition to a classroom computer to get their job done?  In general, administrators have a computer in their office in addition to a laptop/tablet or both. Big government spending and Prop 3 do not take this into consideration. 
The irony with Prop 3 is that it is a liberal proposition that was created and promoted by conservatives.    I think much of our national and state political problems come from party loyalty instead of loyalty to our country.  Too often both the Republicans and the Democrats are more interested in the furthering of their party than furthering our country.  Prop 3 is a good example of this.  Many Idaho Republicans will vote for it solely because it is a Republican proposition and that is enough.  Folks need to think outside the Republicans and the Democrats and evaluate these propositions solely on their merits.   The consideration needs to be what is best for our state, not what is best for our party.  If this is done, Prop 3 would be voted down in a landslide and politicians who are behind it would be held accountable for wasting our time and money.

Feel free to read the 362 page contract here:
Instead of creating a searchable PDF contract that would be easy to search through the state created this old school scanned PDF document that is not searchable and takes twice as long to download.  With the state pushing technology like they are it would nice if they could lead by example.

From Wayne:
Proposition 3 imposes a largely unfunded mandate that takes away local control and dictates how and what we teach our kids. Forcing local schools to buy expensive technology and to pay for replacement parts will be much more costly than the backers of the laws claim. Kids are kids. Hardware will break. Taxpayers will be left to foot the bill.
Using computers to teach students is good, and already occurs in every school in Idaho. But we shouldn’t have to lay off teachers to buy laptops. We need teachers in the classroom to help our kids learn how to make the most of technology. One of the major providers of online courses in Idaho sent students’ English essays to be reviewed in India. The last thing we should be doing is outsourcing teaching jobs and our students’ education overseas.
Proposition 3 forces your local schools to spend your tax dollars on expensive, unproven technology before they spend money on essentials like reducing class sizes, purchasing basic classroom supplies, or protecting student safety. Because this state mandate was left largely unfunded by the legislature, it could lead to higher property taxes for all of us. It also requires all students to take on-line courses in order to graduate from high school. One of the online course providers that benefits most from this law, K12 Inc., was even caught sending students’ English essays to reviewers based in India. The last thing we should be doing is using our taxpayer dollars to outsource Idaho teaching jobs and our students’ education to another country. 
This costly, top-down mandate is the wrong way to develop a 21st century education.
From Neal(School Superintendent):
I’m voting “No” on Proposition 3 a limited use of technology which schools already have is working now and can be gradually improved. Data shows that most of the online charters are achieving well below regular schools. Also with our teachers being paid so poorly it seems criminal to spend 180 million dollars on technology.

From my husband (a sportsman):
I talked to my husband about this bill. He is voting yes because it puts the right to hunt and fish in the state constitution which can protect these rights if an overzealous federal government tries to take them away.

SJR 102
From my brother (a public defender):
Yes means the state (Idaho Department Of Corrections) does felony probation only leaving misdemeanor probation to the counties which is how it's done now in TF and Lincoln Counties. I think yes is good for local control of minor offenders and for distinguishing supervision levels and control/authority level for minor from major offenders. No might make for more uniformity across county lines but it could also inflate IDOC's local presence.
1                      1) Campaign advisor comments on controversial education ads By Jessica Crandall POSTED: 10:11 PM MDT Oct 17, 2012  UPDATED: 11:02 AM MDT Oct 18, 2012 
2) October 28, 2012 in Idaho Pro-Proposition 1, 2, 3 ad uses Romney anti-teachers union quote Betsy Z. Russell

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