BOISE -- Lawmakers listened to concerns about education in Idaho and ideas on how to improve it on Friday.
The event was held by the House and Senate Education Committees, and was not a hearing for any particular legislation. It was just what they called a listening session. Which was good because people had a lot to say.
Two main themes emerged. First, people involved in charter schools asked for some change in the laws. Since right now they can't run a levy and don't get funding for their facilities.
Idaho has a great opportunity this year to close the funding gap between traditional public schools and charter schools, said Don Keller with the Idaho Charter School Network.
I don't think it is fair that public schools get more money than charter schools, said Katie Bush, who attends Sage International School. I see no reason for us to get less money.
Other people involved with the charter schools promised that lawmakers would see some legislation regarding their funding limitations very soon.
Secondly, there was plenty of talk about the new bills pushed by the Idaho School Boards Association. They would revive elements of Proposition 1 in the Students Come First Laws, specifically relating to changing how teacher contracts are negotiated.
These bills are insulting to our members, said Penni Cyr, President of the Idaho Education Association (the teachers' union). Football coach Bear Bryant said that when you make a mistake, admit it, learn from it, and don't repeat it. I believe legislators could take a page out of that playbook.
But those supporting the legislation say it's very different from Proposition 1.
We heard three concerns about Prop 1, said Anne Ritter, President of the Idaho School Boards Association. One was the change in what can be bargained. That's not what we're asking for. We heard the teachers. That's off the table. The second was the continuing contract issue. That is off the table. The third was the process. We've divided these into seven bills so we can have a full and fair hearing.
We saw again Friday how much Idahoans care about education. While not all of them talked, about 200 people showed up for this session, and started showing up two hours before it started.