‘Students Come First’ Laws On November Ballot in Idaho

The Students Come First laws championed by schools Superintendent Tom Luna and passed by the Legislature in 2011 are dividing opinion in Idaho. Those in favor know that the Legislature has already passed the bill and have the slogan ‘Electorate demands it. Economy requires it. Students deserve it.' Those against have a little momentum, too, having gathered the 75,000 signatures required to put a repeal measure on the November ballot to kill the laws. Their slogan is ‘Bad for children. Bad for teachers. Bad for Idaho.'

Both sides are passionate and convinced their point of view is correct. Both sides are driven to drum up support and finance for media campaign in the lead up to the November 6 ballot measure. A ‘no' vote would kill the laws, a ‘yes' vote would keep them in place.

The "yes" and "no" campaigns won't have to file pre-election finance statements until early October, and both declined to reveal donations so far. But managers on each side say they expect to bring in $1 million or more, with much of it coming from national organizations.

Radio advertisements already are plying the airwaves, with television spots anticipated as more money rolls in. Last week the "Vote No Props 1, 2, 3" campaign posted ad videos on YouTube.

Looking at Facebook followers, there is a clear winner so far in terms of social media. On the 24th August the ‘vote no' campaign had over 4,000 Facebook followers. In stark contrast the ‘Yes for Idaho Education' page had 46 followers. The ‘yes' campaign says it hasn't started a social media focus yet and they will ramp that up in the very near future. There is no denying, however, that the late start has given the ‘no' campaign, which should be an underdog to win this fight, a head start in fundraising.

The Students Come First laws established a merit pay bonus system for teachers and stripped them of their collective bargaining rights. It also imposed technology measures that required laptop computers for all high school students and, to ensure that all high school graduates had the necessary basic skills to operate in a modern marketplace, required that they had at least two course credits earned online.

Longtime school board member Wendy Horman believes the technology bill is vital to the proper preparation of students for higher education and the modern workforce. However, the Idaho Education Association believes that this is the wrong approach and that the money would be better spent on teacher salaries to ensure that class sizes stay under control.

"We do not believe the best way to try to teach kids is to replace a teacher with a computer and a requirement," said Mike Lanza, a Boise father of two who chairs the "No" campaign and co-founded Idaho Parents and Teachers Together.

08 29, 2012
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