What's The Biggest Issue Facing Idaho Schools? Jana Jones Says There Are Two

Oct 20, 2014

The Democrat running to be Idaho’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction says funding and low morale are the two biggest issues facing Idaho’s schools.

Jana Jones ran for superintendent of schools in 2006 and was defeated by Tom Luna.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Jana Jones is running against Republican Sherri Ybarra to replace Tom Luna. Luna has served two terms and announced earlier this year he would not seek a third. Jones lost a close race to Luna in 2006.

Jones is a former teacher and currently a consultant. She’s from Idaho Falls, and is considered to be Democrats’ best chance of winning a statewide race in 2014.

Funding for Idaho's public schools was cut drastically during the Great Recession. The Legislature did increase funding in 2014, but per-student spending remains among the lowest in the country.

“Funding has been hard on our districts’ ability to operate, and provide the kind of education they would like to be providing,” Jones says. “But it’s also been very hard on them  to keep the morale up, to keep teachers employed, to recruit people to come to Idaho and work.”

Jones says overcrowded classrooms  and crumbling buildings are affecting how teachers feel about their work.

“It’s very, very difficult and the moral is pretty low,” she says. “And we need to turn that around.  My biggest goal is to have people in Idaho start feeling good about our schools again.”

If she wins, Jones would be a Democrat asking a heavily-Republican Legislature for funding. It’s the same body that’s funded Republican Tom Luna’s department well below his budget requests. Jones says she’d make consensus-building a priority, in hopes of convincing the Legislature and the governor to send more money to public schools.

Jones spoke with KBSX in an interview that aired Monday on Morning Edition. We’ll talk with Republican candidate Sherri Ybarra on Tuesday’s show.

Both candidates will debate Tuesday, you can hear that debate live on KBSX 91.5 FM.

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