After a week of public testimony, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna presented changes to Students Come First today, in the form of three pieces of revised legislation. All the changes are based on citizen feedback heard in the Senate Education Committee public hearings, and from legislators.
"I am both pleased and encouraged by the actions being taken in the Senate Education Committee," Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said. "I believe we proposed meaningful legislation to the Legislature. The changes, based on input from the public and members of the Senate, have only enhanced the package."
"Over the past week, we have seen our legislative process in action as many Idahoans came to the Statehouse to discuss education reform. The public testimony we heard was not window dressing. We gathered several good ideas and have made changes based on this input," Superintendent Luna said.
The Students Come First plan is a comprehensive plan for improving Idaho's public education system by ensuring it is customer-driven and educates more students at a higher level with limited resources.
For the past two years, the State of Idaho has cut revenues at the State level but has done nothing to reduce costs at the local school district level. Under Students Come First, the State will take a different approach in order to put our public education system back on firm financial footing. It will not just reduce revenues at the State level, but also reduce the costs that our local districts must shoulder so we can stabilize the public schools budget and direct more money into the classroom, where it's needed most.
While pleased with the transparency of the legislative process, Governor Otter was critical of those unwilling to join in the discourse.
"Senate opponents of the legislation listened to the same testimony we did. We were open for discussion to make the package more perfect and we got not one idea back in return," he said. "The only thing we've heard is raise taxes, and that does not serve Idaho's students or Idaho taxpayers."
Here are highlights of the proposed changes to the Students Come First legislation:
* Students will be required to take four credits online any time during high school. That's down from the original proposal of eight online credits. Students must complete at least 46 total credits to meet minimum State graduation requirements.
* To meet the State requirement, school districts can offer a blended model, which includes both online and in-person instruction as long as the majority of the instruction is online. Districts can meet the digital learning requirement through the Idaho Education Network, an online provider such as the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, or a blended model.
* The State Board of Education will develop standards for a digital citizenship course that local school districts can offer students.
Mobile computing devices:
* Until a high school reaches a 1:1 ratio, the local school district will have the flexibility to determine when students are given mobile computing devices in high school, instead of requiring mobile computing devices by grade level.
* The local school district will own the mobile computing device and will determine whether students are given the device upon graduation.
Great Teachers and Leaders:
* The State will increase the minimum teacher salary to $30,000 and implement a mechanism for raising the minimum salary in the future as the State appropriates additional dollars for teacher pay.
* The State will require local school boards to conduct at least one performance evaluation before deciding not to renew an employee's contract.