Thursday, March 3, 2011

doublespeaking up for idaho kids

this afternoon i spent time in a fifth grade classroom taking pictures of students for an article on a wonderful literary center program that brings local, published authors to schools to teach writing.

i had a great time observing the class. and i’ve never seen people so enthusiastic about having their pictures taken. they took home photo release forms in advance, so they knew i was coming and as soon as they saw me walk in with a camera around my neck, those miniature humans got pumped.

people who know me might be surprised to hear me say anything positive about children, but these kids seemed great--very bright, creative, enthusiastic and incredibly participative. i still wouldn’t want to spend more than an hour or two in their presence, but the 45 minutes i spent today were highly tolerable.

anyway, the reason i’m writing about this...tom luna. he’s the idaho state superintendent of schools, and he’s recently introduced a really shitty piece of shit-ass legislation:

“The package would eliminate about 770 jobs for teachers and another 230 jobs held by other professionals. It would raise class sizes, mandate online education and other technology, add pay incentives for teachers and end tenure for new teachers.”

(all quotes are from dan popkey’s articles in the idaho statesman)

the bill is named, in accordance with republican politicians’ stupefying flair for ironic terminology, “students come first.”

this pretty much came out of the blue. luna didn’t mention a word about it when he was campaigning just a few months ago. apparently he and butch otter (fuck, fuck, fuck me for living in a state where the governor goes by the name “butch”) came up with the plan after the election.

“‘Students Come First’ was drafted without input from the usual stakeholders, including associations representing school administrators, school boards and teachers, the PTA and the State Board of Education.”

luna’s really chuffed with himself for being such an awesome education reformer. i’m sure a lot of his friends think it’s pretty sweet too, like the corporations that helped get him elected and now stand to benefit greatly from this bill (“Altogether, Luna received 19 percent of his [2010 campaign contribution] funds from the for-profit education sector.”)

a lot of high school kids held walk-outs this week and held protests against luna’s plan. it doesn’t look like that’s going to do any good. the legislation passed the house this afternoon, now it just needs senate approval, and of course butch will sign off on it.

being in that classroom today was eye-opening. it was so overcrowded. one teacher, 31 students and three hapless goldfish in a tiny, crammed room...it felt combustible. the kids can’t be getting as much individual attention as they should receive, and the teacher, competent as she seemed, must be overwhelmed. luna wants to increase class sizes?

and the mandatory online classes are just a terrible idea. not only is that method of learning not really effective for all students, but in addition, so much learning goes on in schools that has nothing to do with the material being taught. i hate to imagine what sad mental state i’d be in if it wasn’t for the forced socialization K-12 provided me.

this legislation sucks. it kills jobs and it fucks with the effectiveness of our schools, which further fucks with kids’ futures and the u.s. economy.

what gives, luna. i don’t understand why someone who seems so anti-education would want to be superintendent in the first place.

here’s one last tasty nugget:

“Idaho ranks 49th among the 50 states in education spending per student, based on 2007-08, the last year available from the Census Bureau.”

5 comments:

Resting Nomad said...

Reading about issues like this is exactly why I stay away from the news. I am always left feeling so helpless, because it is difficult to have the hope that the people will win. The people never win, money does. The least we can do is speak up and give our opinions in situations like this. It is great that you are photographing and writing about this subject, even if you feel helpless you are still doing what you can.

the Knottie Knitta said...

sigh. 50 bucks says that they cut teachers in the arts WAYYYY before they touch athletics.

i say good on the highschoolers for protesting...i saw on the news last night that even JR HIGH kids were doing walkouts...although at that age i'm sure it is more about "OMG i'm missing class! sweet!" than it is about the politics.

Emily said...

resting nomad--i understand not wanting to pay attention to the news. it is really frustrating, especially with local issues in a super-red state where you know things are usually not going to turn out well. but i still pay attention because i feel like (at least for me) knowing about things as they happen is better than being suddenly shocked by their outcome.

spoon--oh of course they will, because learning to think creatively and make art and music is so much less important than running around and throwing balls. peoples' priorities amaze me.

Kim and Victoria said...

Nice rant, Emily! I enjoyed reading it; especially "(fuck, fuck, fuck me for living in a state where the governor goes by the name “butch”)".
Ha, so true!

Emily said...

haha thanks, glad you enjoyed it.