Education

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments last week on whether affirmative action in higher education should remain. The court has previously ruled to allow public universities to consider race as part of the admissions process. At universities in Idaho test scores and grade point averages are the main criteria used to admit students: race is not considered.

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You've likely seen ads or signs encouraging you to vote no or yes on propositions 1, 2 and 3. Each proposition addresses an aspect of Idaho's education laws known as Students Come First. These laws limit collective bargaining, institute a pay for performance plan, and increase technology use in schools. Finance reports were due Wednesday for groups involved and show there's a lot of money being raised to support and fight the laws. 

Emilie Ritter-Saunders / StateImpact Idaho

For some the most important thing on Idaho’s November ballot is not a candidate but three referenda. They ask voters to keep or reject the state’s 2011 education laws known as Students Come First.

Tuesday, at Boise’s City Club, schools’ superintendent Tom Luna, the laws’ champion, had a fiery exchange with state Representative Brian Cronin, one of the most prominent critics.

An audience question at the forum revealed the political philosophy behind parts of Students Come First. Superintendent Luna was asked if the rift between him and the state’s teachers could be healed.

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401K / Flickr Creative Commons

A former school superintendent is suing the state of Idaho on behalf of all parents who have been charged fees by their childrens’ schools. Russell Joki says charging fees violates Idaho’s constitution which requires a free, uniform school system. Joki has been a teacher and administrator in Idaho and Oregon schools and now teaches education classes for the University of Idaho. He says charging fees has become endemic in Idaho schools. He cites his own grandson as an example.

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The Nampa School District announced its deficit had grown to $4.5 million late last week. Monday a group begins meeting to discuss what to do about the school district’s budget shortfall.

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401K / Flickr Creative Commons

The Nampa School District says its budget shortfall is larger than first thought. The estimate is now $4.5 million. In August, the state’s third largest district announced that overspending last year had created a shortfall of $2.8 million. District spokeswoman Allison Westfall says an internal audit wrapping up now revises that amount down to $2.4 million. But Westfall says the audit then turned to this year’s budget.

Idaho's been trying to get a waiver from the federal education law called No Child Left Behind. In it, schools get a pass or fail designation based on standardized test scores. That's something Idaho wants to change and the state isn't waiting for the waiver. It's already created a new rating system. The first results were released a month ago, and one school says the system isn't fair.

The Boise District School Board voted to oppose the Students Come First Legislation in a symbolic gesture Tuesday afternoon. Referenda that would reverse the legislation will be on the ballot in November.

President A.J. Balukoff says that the board has an obligation to talk publicly on how the Students Come First laws would impact students in Boise.  

“We don’t think they will have a good effect on the students of not only the Boise School District but other districts around the state.”

Lester Public Library / Flickr

The Nampa School District says the book “Like Water for Chocolate” is inappropriate for high school sophomores. It’s banning the book from the curriculum.

The 1989 book by Mexican author Laura Esquivel includes vivid descriptions of sexual arousal. Nampa School District spokeswoman Allison Westfall says over the weekend, administrators reviewed the passages after receiving complaints.

www1.nsd131.org

Nampa’s school superintendent Gary Larsen said  Monday that he's resigning. A spokesperson for The Nampa School District says Larsen hopes the move will restore public trust in how the district manages its finances.

Last month Larsen announced that an accounting error had resulted in a  $2.8  million shortfall going into the new school year.

Larsen credited the error to the district financial office being understaffed. He took responsibility for that situation. Tuesday night Nampa’s school board will hold a special meeting on whether to accept Larsen’s resignation.

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Idaho’s most recent high school grads exceeded national averages on the SAT. The company that administers the college entrance exam released numbers Monday. 

Students who graduated in 2012 beat the national SAT scores by wide margins in all three subject areas.

Idaho 2012 grads:

  • Critical Reading – 547
  • Math – 541
  • Writing – 525

National 2012 grads:

sos.idaho.gov

One of the big questions surrounding the Students Come First referendum has been what will happen to teacher bonuses if voters reject the laws on November 6th.  The laws institute bonuses for teachers for things like improved student test scores and working in positions that are difficult to fill. Now Idaho’s Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says those bonuses will go out regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Everything about Concordia is new. The leather spines of the library books look un-cracked and the furniture looks like catalogue pictures. But Spencer Lay has been around the block. He's an ex-marine who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Boise's first three year law school is now teaching classes and Lay is a member of Concordia Law School's first class

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We hear a lot about childhood obesity. Now one Idaho school is being honored for its efforts to fight it. Tuesday Middleton Middle School will receive the Gold Award of Distinction from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its commitment to promoting healthy living. Middleton is only the second Idaho school to achieve that level after Jerome in 2009. Principal Molly Burger says her school has implemented all the nutrition guidelines from the USDA, things like switching to whole grain.

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As a group, property owners in Meridian and Eagle will pay half a million dollars more this year. That’s because the state’s largest school district passed an emergency levy this week. This type of levy does not require voter approval. School boards can pass them if student enrollment exceeds expectations.

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