Idaho’s Education Improvement Task Force finished a statewide listening tour Thursday night in Boise. The group was created to recommend ways to improve the state’s schools after voters repealed an education overhaul last November.
Thursday night’s public meeting was well attended compared to some past meetings. About 200 people squeezed into the state capital building’s Lincoln Auditorium and 37 spoke. It lasted more than two and a half hours.
Funding was a major theme as it has been at past task force meetings. Phoebe Smith addressed the group along with her daughter Lizzie who has a disability. Lizzie’s service dog sat at her feet. Smith spoke of the importance of funding special education and schools in general. She said taxes should be raised to increase school funding.
“Raise the funds, then spend those funds on teachers and classrooms,” Smith said. “Idaho parents have already told you this.” But she left the last word to her daughter who added simply, “Listen.”
More than a third of the people who spoke Thursday night criticized the Common Core state standards. These are standards for what students should learn in each grade which Idaho and most other states are adopting.
Opponents like Richard Twite characterized the move as surrendering control of Idaho’s education system to the federal government and large corporations.
“With Common Core our children are to be transformed into creatures of the central state,” he said. “I urge you to get Idaho children out of this perverse, un-American system.”
Only one person expressed support for Common Core at Thursday's meeting.
Testimony from the seven listening sessions will be transcribed and given to task force members along with suggestions received through e-mail. The group plans to meet again next month to review what it heard and will eventually give recommendations to lawmakers next year.