Superintendent of Idaho

The key Issues


27 Mar 2015

Funding  0

According to annual reports filed by the Idaho Department of Education,(see hotlinks to these reports on left) student enrollment from the 1996/1997 school year to the 2000/2001 school year, a four year period,has increased by only 125 students. These same reports show that during this same four year period of time, state funding has increased $181,000,000.00 and federal funding has increased $44,000,000.00 (this does not include any increases derived from property taxes or other revenue sources).

In other words, kindergarten through grade 12 enrollment, statewide, has gone up a mere 125 students since 1996/1997 and annual spending has increased over $225 million.

This information answers two important questions. First, we haven’t been stingy with the funds, they have been at least adequate. The second, more important question it answers is what I call the educational question of our generation. “WILL MORE MONEY ALONE IMPROVE SCHOOLS?” The evidence is in and the answer is an overwhelmingly NO! These same annual reports show that over the same four-year period of unprecedented funding increases, student test scores have remained flat or gone down.

We cannot contine to just talk about whether we will do 4% more or 4% less of what we did last year.

We must expand the discussion on education funding to include an examination of how we can better spend what we currently have. Every budget must be weighed against student achievement, every expenditure must be justified, and most importantly every educational program must go through an annual review to see if it is still viable or to see if it has out lived it usefulness. By going through this exercise we can determine the best place to spend existing funds and where to spend new funds. If a program is no longer improving student achievement then we must discontinue that program and redirect those funds to a program that has proven to increase student performance.

If we are truly committed to increasing student achievement and in leaving no child behind then how we spend all available funds must reflect that priority.

26 Mar 2015

Local Control  0


Local control is the cornerstone of the educational system in Idaho. I am convinced that the role of the state should be to measure every student to assure they are growing and achieving. How resources are used to achieve these standards is best decided at the local level. We must give districts and individuals control over what they are to be held accountable for.

In education today we think that by controlling all of the inputs, we can predict the results. However, we never measure the results to see if what we are doing is working, consequently, we continue to add more and more to education but we never remove anything. By measuring every child we can begin to identify those programs and ideas that work and those that don’t. We can then stop allocating resources to those programs that don’t work and focus them on those that support student achievement.

27 Mar 2015

Attendance -vs- Performance  3

We get from education exactly what we pay for, because what we pay for is attendance. Every school in Idaho gets its state funding based on Average Daily Attendance. So what have schools done? The have perfected attendance. Our schools run at about 94-95% attendance day in and day out. Why? Because that is where the money is. Check it out on Google and you can see the rank.

We take official attendance at 10:00 am because we know that that is when the most students are there. If my son misses one period of high school, I would get a phone call THAT night from a computer telling me he was absent. However, it he receives a “D” or an “F” on a test I may not find out for week. This is because in education today, attendance is mandatory but learning is optional.

I am convinced that the same system that has perfected attendance will perfect student performance if at least some of the money they receive is based on student performance. A recent article in the Idaho Falls Post Register emphasizes this point. According to the Post Register, the Idaho Falls School Board worked with the local school district to implement a new attendance policy. After a year of effort they were able to raise student attendance by 1%. The result was an increase in state funding of over $300,000.00. I am convinced that if there was $300,000.00 available for raising student achievement by 1% or 3% that the same type effort and ingenuity would be put into raising student achievement.

This funding and marketing formula has its roots in the early 1900’s. Then the biggest challenge schools faced was attendance; parents kept their kids home to help out on the farm or they didn’t value public education. So, those funding education told educators that they would fund schools based on attendance, thus putting an incentive on attendance. Well, today the biggest challenge facing education is not attendance, as I stated we run at about 94-95% attendance. The biggest challenge facing education today is student achievement, so let’s use the same model adopted in the 1900’s lets put an incentive where we need the most attention, student achievement.

This funding formula is not only outdated and misdirected but it is an insult to the teachers and parents who spend hours working to improve student performance because the formula doesn’t recognize or reward student performance. That is why one of the first things I will do, as state superintendent, is work with the Governor, legislature and educational leaders and develop a funding formula that not only recognizes attendance but will also reward student performance.