Education reform debate takes on an emotional tone

Education reform debate takes on an emotional tone

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by Justin Corr

Bio | Email | Follow: @JCorrKTVB

Idaho's NewsChannel 7

Posted on February 27, 2011 at 6:23 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 28 at 12:22 PM

BOISE -- The debate over education reform in Idaho has taken over this year's legislative session, and it's not over yet.

No matter where you stand on Tom Luna's plan, you can't deny the level of emotion in the debate that it has inspired.

We first saw that emotion on display in the public testimony last month in front of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, when close to a 100 people testified. A teacher from Hansen, Lauren Peters, started crying when relaying the cuts her high school has already seen.

But lawmakers have been emotional too. Republican state Senator Brent Hill seemed very affected by the debate on floor last week, before sighing deeply and making his point, "There's no completely fair system folks. This may not be the best way, but it's definitely a better way."

There's also been plenty of emotion in the protests throughout the debate, and in the candlelight vigil held after two of the bills passed the Senate last week.

"I just think what is happening is a travesty," said Judy Bittick, who attended the vigil. "I'm really upset. These are the leaders of tomorrow, of our state."

It's not just the amount of public input, which is unprecedented, but the passion with which it's presented.

Sara Pealy, the secretary for the Senate Education Committee says, there's now a separate e-mail inbox just for people's comments on the issue.

"I have never heard of this," said Pealy. "They have that setup specifically because it is so contentious, and because people have such strong feelings."

Dr. David Adler, director of the McClure Center for Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho, expected the battle over this legislation to get emotional simply because it will affect everyone in the state.

"Everybody understands the crucial role that education plays, not only in the life of children, but in their parents, in their teacher's lives, and of course, for the impact on the state," Adler said.

People on both sides are fighting for what they view as the future of Idaho.

Two of the bills attached to Luna's Education Reform plan passed the Senate last week, and will be discussed in the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

However, the final bill (which funds the plan and has the technology elements) was sent back to the Senate Education Committee for a re-working. That should be discussed in the coming week as well. 

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