Idaho Voters to Consider Tossing Out Yummy Education Reform Tater Tots

Progress in education reform, like so many other areas, is never final. Just as bad policies can be undone, so can good policies. Simply put, we can’t rest on our laurels.

I’m sure that Idaho superintendent Tom Luna and the team behind his Students Come First program are well aware of that reality now. Last year I told you about the yummy tater tots of education reform coming out of the Gem State — a few key pieces of legislation that, among other things, spurred some great innovative local pay-for-performance projects.

But a report this week from Education News’ Julie Lawrence, the teachers union and other reform opponents collected enough signatures to put the reform items on the ballot for voters to reconsider:

This means that the state’s airways and billboards have been blanketed by snappy campaign slogans both supporting and opposing the measures. Although neither campaign is obligated to reveal their final financial statements until October, the fundraising has been brisk, and both sides expect to raise and spend in excess of $1 million in order to sway voters.

“Snappy campaign slogans”? Not exactly the change we’ve all been waiting for. It’s not surprising that certain groups want to undo policies that tie teacher tenure to performance and limit union collective bargaining power. Interestingly, though, the strongest and most pervasive arguments have come against the requirements to expand the use of classroom technology and deliver courses digitally to students.

In any case, the ballot initiatives will be easy to remember — as Propositions 1, 2 and 3. A Yes vote means keep the “Luna laws” in place, while a No vote means repeal the reforms and rewind the progress. Superintendent Luna argued for a trio of Yes votes by telling the local Spokesman-Review that terminating the reform programs mid-year would create upheaval:

Luna suggested asking opponents of the reform laws about that. “I’m very curious as to what their plan is for managing this disruption,” he said. “We’ve made it very clear in the past that you cannot cut school budgets in the middle of the school year, and that’s what this amounts to.”

Which side will succeed in Idaho? At this point, I suppose anything could happen. Which is all the more reason for even the most serious and successful reformers to be on guard against their good work being overturned by unhappy adult interest groups. Let’s hope voters do their homework and make sure those yummy tater tots don’t end up in the trash!