BOISE -- Millions continue to be spent on trying to influence your vote on Idaho's education reform measures (Propositions 1, 2, and 3).
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa filed a lawsuit to get the Political Action Committee, Education Voters of Idaho (EVI) to disclose those donors. Ysursa cited Idaho's long-standing Sunshine Law as grounds for the release.
Wednesday, EVI complied with Ysursa's request. The group published a list of major contributors from Idaho and across the country. Two of the biggest names were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Joe Scott, the Albertsons grocery store chain heir.
Scott donated the biggest chunk of anyone to EVI, a quarter of a million dollars.
Scott says he's passionate about his support for Props 1, 2, and 3, believing the technology elements are especially helpful to the rural areas of Idaho. A statement from Scott includes the sentence, We have to stop making decision about what is best for education based upon what is best for Boise, and start making decisions based upon what is best for the entire state of Idaho.
On the other side of the issue is the National Education Association. America's largest teachers union has donated more than $2 million to defeat the measures. In total, more than $4 and-a-half million has been donated to campaigns for and against the propositions.
According to KTVB political analyst Dr. Jim Weatherby, that's a record for cash spent on ballot measures in Idaho. I suspected that it would go to four, Weatherby said. But, four and-a-half now, and these are disclosures before the election. No doubt, there will be more that will be disclosed.
Weatherby believes even more money will be donated and spent before voters go to the polls to decided if the measures fail or pass. He says the fight will likely continue right up until Election Day, due to undecided voters.
In his written statement, Albertson's heir Joe Scott also stressed that he made his donation as an individual, and not as the Chairman of the Board of the Albertson Foundation. His full statement is below.
Joe B. Scott made the following statement regarding his donation to the Education Voters of Idaho:
I want to make it clear that I personally made this donation as an individual, a concerned citizen, a businessman, a grandfather and an advocate for education. I have every right to support causes about which I am passionate.
I hope that this matter will not divert people from focusing on the critical issue of education reform in Idaho.
Idaho has serious problems when it comes to educating our kids. Here are just a few statistics: 1/3 of our 3rd graders are illiterate; 67% of our 8th graders have only a basic or below basic understanding of math; Idaho is nearly dead last for the percentage of students who go on to some form of post secondary education. In fact, we're in the bottom ten states on a number of critical student achievement indicators. These statistics should alarm you.
How do proposition 1, 2 and 3 help solve these problems? I believe that they upend decades old, outdated models and bring Idaho into the 21st century. They disrupt the status quo. They put quality teachers in the classroom and arm them and their students with technology that will increase student achievement and prepare them for the incredibly competitive global economic environment in which we are living.
I believe you have a choice.
In Proposition 1, you can say yes, the quality and effectiveness of a teacher is more important than how long he or she has been teaching; labor negotiations should take place out in the open; and parents should have a an opportunity to provide feedback on teacher performance. Or we can go back to the status quo. Tenure and seniority trumps a quality teacher; labor negotiations should go back behind closed doors; and parents should have only limited ability to provide input about their children's teachers or principals.
With Proposition 2, you can say yes, great teachers are the key to student success and great teachers whose students show achievement and academic growth, who take on leadership responsibilities or who work in hard--‐to--‐fill positions can and should earn bonuses. Or we can revert to the status quo. Teacher pay should be based on experience and education levels only.
With proposition 3, you can say yes it IS time for Idaho schools to move into the 21st century and equip our students with advanced technology in all grades, in all schools, not just in the districts that can afford it. Our high schools should be equipped with wireless networks. Our teachers and our high school students should have mobile computing devices that gives them access to the world and helps them be more engaged and motivated and better prepared for the demands of the 21st century. Yes, every senior should have the opportunity to complete a year's worth of college or pro--‐tech credits before they graduate. Or we can go back to the status quo. Technology upgrades should only happen in our wealthiest school districts. Only those students who can afford to pay for college credits in high school should be able to take them. Our high school seniors don't need laptops. Furthermore, they aren't responsible enough to handle them. Never mind that we turn two--‐ton automobiles over to 14--‐year olds in Idaho.
We have got to stop making decisions about what is best for the adults in Idaho's education system and start making decisions based upon what's best for the kids.
We have to stop making decision about what is best for education based upon what is best for Boise and start making decisions based upon what is best for the entire state of Idaho.
We have in these propositions an incredible chance to change the way we deliver education to our students. We have a chance to be a leader, not a laggard.
The opponents say the laws are 'bad', yet they haven't offered a single shred of an alternative solution. It would seem they are comfortable with the status quo.
I believe these laws are an important step for the future of our great state. Our teachers and our students deserve it and so does every Idahoan.