Weekly Math Updates
February 7 , 2007
State School Board Meeting
Last week I emailed out information about Mark Cluff's proposal to the State School Board to have districts split when they reach a certain size. I know some of you helped lobby the undecided voters and I'll let you know what happens at their next meeting.
Tons of stuff happening here. I'm going to summarize quickly and if you want to read more, click the link. This won't be comprehensive but just a few I saw of interest.
Idaho Legislature Strikes Down Math Facts Bill
Idaho State Representative Steve Thayne foolishly tried to get the legislature to pass a law requiring teaching the multiplication tables to children "so that the child may be able to learn basic math facts without reliance upon electronic or mechanical tools." It failed 10-7. Opposition encouraged parents to work with their local school board rather than put the matter into law. HA HA HA HA HA. Sorry Idaho. Better get mobilized.
District Division Idea
There are a number of issues surrounding the idea of breaking up large districts. Some of the challenges seem insurmountable barriers and others very minor. I would like to start a discussion on this topic to develop a new plan which might solve many problems and hopefully create far fewer. I am going to outline the plan below and then list some issues and I would like your feedback to ensure this is financially prudent and constitutionally sound. It is my hope that by collaborating on this we can come up with a system that might replace the predicament we are currently in. Join the discussion here:
a) The Background:
Education is a state issue. The state sets standards and tells local districts what they are to teach. We enjoy constitutional limited government in our state and country (at least in theory) and desire to ensure nothing interferes with that.
b) The Challenge:
Splitting school districts in any form causes strong emotions and upheaval at the local level for a wide variety of reasons. School construction bonding and economic tax base are the most difficult issues that arise. We need to find a way to remove the burden of splitting from the local level but to leave accountability intact at that level.
c) The Plan:
Education is a state issue to ensure that all students are taught to a certain level of standard. It benefits the state, not just the local economy (or so the theory goes). That said, construction of new schools state-wide should be done by the state, paid for with tax dollars collected from the state treasury without regard to local property taxes. School districts then receive a WPU as before, solely to educate the students. Without the need to have a tax base to support bonding and school construction, splitting becomes much easier. The local district where part of it has economic development and the other part has none because it's just being expanded into could be split by the state and the state would oversee the need for where schools should be built.
The state would have a dozen or so master plans for elementary schools, and a few for middle and high schools, modest structures with an allotment for internal needs like computer labs and such, and when a district petitions the state to build a school in a given area, they put up the school building based on one of their set plans for however many students the school needs to accomodate. No more need for architects to be hired for each new school. We can have cookie-cutter buildings and let construction companies bid on them and get experience doing similar units.
Districts could still oversee maintenance and bussing, or even better, outsource those or privatize them to let the district focus solely on teachers and education. They just let the private industry handle what it does best.
Issues this plan addresses:
1) Cities no longer have to worry about tax base issues for creating their own school district if they have enough students and want to keep things in their town.
2) Disputes about how to split a district or combine and split multiple districts happen by the state school board who naturally oversees local school board boundaries.
3) Population of an area determines whether or not a school is built there, thus encouraging people to develop a community and have the opportunity at a certain growth point to acquire a local school without regard to inviting "Walmart" into town.
4) Property taxes are a farce when in one year your home property goes up 60% due to changing real estate values, yet your income does not change causing an artificial redistribution of taxation that homeowners have no control over. A senior citizen on a fixed income may suddenly have extra wealth or have a financial problem based on where he or she retired years ago. Under this system, the state could increase the state tax rate and lower the property taxes to cover the WPU, or the county sales tax could cover it. I know this particular item may be controversial.
5) People in developing areas are at the mercy of those in established areas. As districts get larger, the voice of those outlying areas is diminished and they lose control over their educational pursuits for their children. Splitting the district gives them more control over where to put schools and what programs to use to teach their children. With the state putting up schools and leaving education to the local groups, economic base doesn't become an issue.
6) Splitting a district causes massive contention. Those in power point to all the difficulties about how some areas don't have the financial base to support their own district and thus the split should be put off indefinately until that area has a tax base. If the state built schools for the local areas,
7) Bonding for new schools creates massive neighborhood contention. Removing bonding from the public would allow neighborhoods to have greater unity and peace.
8) Schools are paid according to a merit system and they also pay for themselves based on enrollment. If a principal causes a school to excel, students from anywhere may attend that school.
9) Why do charter schools have to be granted a charter? Under this system, any private company could put up a school and if parents sent their children there under the promise of a superior education, that school would get the full WPU that any public school would get (dollars follow students). The private school could use those funds to pay for the building and their own teacher salaries. Since a private entity put up the building rather than staying inside the public system where the state would take over ownership of the building, they should receive a state-backed loan or payment for successful years of teaching children to help cover a portion of the cost of the building. This creates a success mentality within the school and gives them a reason to ensure superior teaching. If they fail to teach the kids to a certain level, they lose the money. Please feel free to weigh in on building ownership issues.
Please feel free to point out what you like and hate and where certain groups will push or block this. In my mind, the UEA shouldn't be opposed to this because it puts the burden on the state to put up new schools in an economic fashion. Local districts will mind more because they'll lose power over the people if they're split.
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Till next week,
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