Examining the 'Students Come First' support ad

Examining the 'Students Come First' support ad

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by Jamie Grey

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBJamieGrey

KTVB.COM

Posted on September 27, 2012 at 11:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 18 at 11:29 AM

BOISE -- There’s less than six weeks before the November 2012 election, and the heat is turning up on some controversial education issues on the ballot.

Campaign advertising spending is already off to a big start, with many education reform ads for, and against, propositions 1, 2, and 3 of the "Students Come First" education reform plan.

A new TV ad started running Wednesday in support of all three propositions.

The new ad comes from the Parents for Education Reform PAC, a new political action committee less than a week old that was partially formed in response to ads against the reform laws. The PAC is part of a non-profit organization called Education Voters of Idaho.

Below, KTVB breaks down the ad, with phrases from the ad in bold, along with fact checking and responses from each side.

"Prop 1 ensures parents have input on teacher and principal job performances."

That statement is true. The law says annual teacher evaluations call for "input from parents and guardians". Critics agree that it's in the law, but say the ad is showcasing a very small part of Prop 1.

"A very small aspect of that law is in fact that parents will have a voice in that," Vote No on Props 1, 2, 3 spokesman Brian Cronin said. "They're really not accurately reflecting what the laws are about. They're cherry picking what they think are the most attractive aspects."

Prop 1 also limits negotiated agreements between teachers and districts and ends the practice of renewable contracts.

"I think there's a lot about these reforms that are very desirable, but as a parent, and as a spokesman for this new group, I can say that [parent input in evaluations] is one of the parts that we think is the most desirable, and why Idahoans should vote yes in November," Parents for Education Reform PAC spokesman John Foster said.

"Prop 2 will reward our best teachers by paying them more."

The phrase "best teachers" is difficult to evaluate, but Prop 2 does offer teachers bonuses based on specific, measured achievements.

"It gives flexibility, so that teachers who are doing outstanding work can be rewarded for that work," Foster said.

Teachers get pay-for-performance bonuses, based on the performance of the entire school on standardized tests and the overall performance of teachers they're grouped with, within the district.

Teachers can only get a bonus if their whole school receives state shares [determined by standardized test performance compared to other schools and compared to the school's previous results] and their group of teachers receives local shares from the district [determined by criteria set by the district, which can include things like test scores, graduation rates, attendance rates, or graduation rates].

Critics therefore question whether it's true the quote "best teachers" would always be rewarded.

"I think the way it's structured, it's very well possible that some very good teachers are not going to see any increase in their pay because of the complex formulas and the fact that it's often dependent on other circumstances that an individual teacher really can't control," Cronin said.

"Prop 3 will allow high school students to earn up to one year's college credit."

The statement is true. The law says if a student has completed all high school course requirements by senior year, the state will fund up to 36 credit hours at approved colleges, at no cost to the student. Again, critics argue this leaves out big parts of Prop 3.

"You'll notice that the ad says nothing about putting laptops in the hands of kids whether they want them, or need them, or not. And it doesn't say anything about requiring kids to take online classes," Cronin said. "This is what my mother used to refer to as lies by omission. Essentially, they've taken very small parts of these laws and tried to depict them as being the bulk of the laws, when in fact they're just very minor aspects."

The PAC behind the ad admits it is picking certain points for the ad, but says it supports all 3 propositions in entirety.

"Obviously we're talking about some of the specifics, and some of the things we really like about the propositions and the reasons we support reform, but really our focus is on the overall values," Foster said. "We're strongly supportive of the need for overall reform, and these three propositions provide a great start."

More on Props 1, 2, and 3

To see a breakdown from the Secretary of State's office of the ballot language and all three propositions, click here.

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