The battle has been joined between those who want to keep Idaho’s Students Come First education laws and those who want voters to repeal them in November. Repeal supporters launched their “Vote No on Propositions 1, 2 and 3” campaign Tuesday. Supporters of the laws have hired a campaign and lobbying firm to make the case for keeping the laws in place.
But there’s more to the debate than campaign events. While repeal proponents were launching their effort – across town, a few hundred teachers from all over Idaho were listening to speeches about how best to use new technology made possible by the laws.
Matt McCarter is the Students Come First director for Idaho’s Department of Education. He says the purpose of the EduStat conference that wraps up in Boise Wednesday is helping teachers use data and technology to create student centered classes. But McCarter says part of it is also getting teachers comfortable with the Students Come First laws.
“The way we make sense of things is to talk about it. So a lot of this is here’s some new ideas, here’s some new tools and let’s make a plan," he says. "We aim to present some examples of how folks have really used what the reforms have to offer to benefit students in a great way.”
Many Idaho teachers have objected to Students Come First since the laws passed in 2011. Some don’t like limits on collective bargaining or see the emphasis on computers as putting technology above teachers. McCarter believes as the new initiatives have become reality, objections to the laws are diminishing. But Maggie Stump disagrees. Stump is an eighth grade reading teacher from Jerome. She says many teachers still oppose the laws even at this conference where they’re learning to implement them.
“I think they’re scared and they’re worried that at some point they’re going to put one teacher on a television in front of hundreds of kids and they don’t need teachers any more," Stump says. "I’m here because I’m nervous about it as well but I’m willing to try new things. I really do want to try new things as far as more technology in my classroom.”
Many of the teachers at the EduStat conference echo Stump on that. They’re excited about using new technology as a tool in class, but remain unconvinced about the laws as a whole.