Education

elections, voting, vote booth
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

A proposed $172 million bond to fund construction and improvements at schools across the Boise District easily passed in yesterday’s election. Officials say some of the building projects could be underway as soon as June. Many of the refurbishments and rebuilds planned by the Boise District are scheduled to be completed by fall of 2018.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Jaeden Forrey took on an unusual school assignment.

“This is my 1970 Monte Carlo," says Forrey. "I got it – not this last Christmas but the Christmas before. And I got it [when it] had no paint, no engine, no transmission, no interior. So I did all the body work, I did all the engine work and interior work on it.”

Flickr Creative Commons

This week in our news series Financing The Future: Examining School Bonds And Levies, Boise State Public Radio and Idaho Education News looked at the finances and infrastructure of the Boise School District. We studied school bonds, past and present, and walked through aging buildings slated for a tear-down. We visited a career-technical high school ready to expand its programs and saw over-crowding at a dual-language immersion school.

With the March 14 bond election on the horizon, Matt Guilhem sat down with Kevin Richert to wrap up the series.

Whittier School Students Kids
Tom Michael / Boise State Public Radio

The Boise School District has been building its case for voters to approve its $172 million bond on March 14. This isn’t the first time the district has had to sell the idea of a bond. There was a bond passed in 1996 and in 2006, and a levy in 2012.

More than a decade ago, voters approved a $94 million bond. Nancy Gregory was on the Boise School Board at that time.

Idaho Ed News

For school districts across Idaho, a $709 million election day looms.

At least 45 of Idaho’s 115 school districts will seek bond issues, plant facilities levies or supplemental levies on March 14, according to Idaho Education News research. The bottom line: At least $709.2 million in ballot measures are on ballot.

Under Idaho law, school districts can run ballot measures on four election days: in March, May, August and November.

Why the logjam on March 14? Timing is certainly a factor.

Lacey Daley / Boise State Public Radio

Bonds in Idaho can be hard to pass, in part because a lot of “yes” votes are needed at the polls. So how school districts explain their need and the cost to voters is critical in a bond campaign.

In this installment of our Financing the Future Series, we take a closer look at the Boise District’s bond and why it could be a challenge to pass.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

On Feb. 9, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding convinced the House Local Government Committee to introduce a proposal to reduce Idaho’s two-thirds supermajority.

And that’s as far as it’s likely to go. Erpelding has been told his proposal will not get a hearing. By his count, there have been 11 attempts to reduce the supermajority since 1990, and none have made it through the Legislature.

“I guess I can get in line,” Erpelding, D-Boise, said Friday.

Boise State Public Radio and Idaho Education News are partnering to produce a week-long series on how the March 14 statewide school elections affect students, communities and taxpayers.

High school junior Erin Frazer is laser-focused, moving her mouse deftly as she manipulates an image on her computer screen.

“I think Illustrator is my favorite out of all these programs,” she says.

Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

Boise State Public Radio and Idaho Education News are partnering to produce a week-long series on how the March 14 statewide school elections affect students, communities and taxpayers.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

An informational hearing at the state capitol Wednesday centered on early childhood education.

The Senate Education Committee was scheduled to only hear about kindergarten and other early education resources for 20 minutes. However, questions from senators pushed the meeting to close to an hour.

Idaho Ed News

Sen. Dean Mortimer has a $20.3 million plan to help schools cover health insurance costs.

Education groups are split on the idea. Depending on who you listen to, Mortimer’s plan could help schools attract and keep teachers. Or, it could exacerbate Idaho’s teacher shortage.

At some point, the Senate Education Committee will vote on the idea.

Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, uses some complicated math to construct his Senate Bill 1096.

vote, election
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

Despite a concerted advertising campaign by the College of Western Idaho to pass a $180 million bond, the measure failed on the November ballot. 

Now, CWI is examining the loss. The bond would have been used to construct a new CWI campus in Boise and expand the college’s footprint in Nampa.

AP

Betsy DeVos was confirmed Tuesday to be the Secretary of Education by the U.S. Senate. The newest cabinet member is a billionaire donor to conservative causes. In Michigan, DeVos was a proponent of vouchers for school choice, allowing students to use taxpayer dollars to fund tuition at private, for-profit and religious schools.

Nancy Gregory, Board Chair of the Boise School District, says she was “disheartened at the confirmation.”

Idaho Ed News

House Speaker Scott Bedke has joined 140 GOP officials in endorsing Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial choice for education secretary.

Bedke co-signed a letter calling DeVos “an advocate and ally for all children.” The letter was signed by state school superintendents, lieutenant governors and legislators from all 50 states. Bedke was the lone Idahoan to sign on — and said he did so at the urging of the Republican National Committee.

Idaho Ed News

Idaho’s average teacher salary has increased by slightly more than 5 percent since 2015, when the state adopted a five-year plan to boost pay.

Like many averages, this number tells only part of the story.

In 26 districts and charters across Idaho, average salaries increased by more than 10 percent. In 19 districts and charters, the average actually decreased — which happens when experienced teachers retire or resign, and entry-level teachers take their place.

Aidan Wakely-Mulroney / Flickr Creative Commons

Many schools throughout the Treasure Valley have been closed since last week’s snow storm. For high school students, the extra days off after the holiday break have been both good and bad.

Boise High science teacher Alison Ward says in her 11 years at the school she’s never experienced so many snow days. She says she and her colleagues are doing what they can to adapt.

“I think most of us are handling it with a sense of humor," says Ward. "Definitely we appreciate that our district has everyone’s safety in mind.”

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

When they convene next week, lawmakers in the Idaho Legislature plan to take a closer look at teacher evaluations.

For years, Idaho has required an annual evaluation to use as a tool for educators to improve their performance. In 2015, lawmakers decided to tie those evaluations to teacher raises. Called the Career Ladder, this initiative spends $250 million over five years to boost teacher pay. But to climb that ladder - teachers must meet certain performance benchmarks in order to earn a raise.

Idaho Ed News

While Idaho distributes most of its K-12 dollars based on student population, its literacy dollars are an exception.

The state uses Idaho Reading Indicator test scores to determine where to spend its $11.25 million in literacy money.

Idaho Ed News

In Erika Carpenter’s second-grade class, a handful of students are working on the basics of reading. They are sounding out letters, one by one, in small words: real words and nonsense words alike.

Down the hall at Boise’s Koelsch Elementary School, kindergartners are working on similar drills. The second-graders are trying to catch up — and there is no way to rush them along. The best way to bridge the gap is through constant and time-consuming repetition.

Idaho Department of Education

This adorable penguin was drawn by Sawtooth Elementary fifth-grader Kylee Thiel. It was submitted from Twin Falls along with other pictures from around the state in the Idaho State Department of Education's Holiday Card Contest.

Idaho Schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra said Thiel's artwork was the winner. It will be featured on the Department's holiday greeting card. Thiel will also get a certificate and copies of the card to share with family and friends.

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