Newly-Adopted Idaho Laws Kind of Like the Yummy Tater Tots of Education Reform

Mashed. Baked. Au gratin. French fries. Hash browns. Tater tots…. Other than the fact it’s almost lunchtime, why am I talking about potatoes? In honor of my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow’s newly-published School Reform News article “Idaho Gov. Signs Two Sweeping Reform Bills”:

Amid a rancorous atmosphere that included vandalism against Idaho’s top public school administrator and threats of violence against lawmakers, Governor Butch Otter (R) signed a pair of bills aimed at a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s elementary and secondary schools.

Senate Bills 1108 and 1110 both passed Idaho’s upper chamber by 20-15 votes, with eight Republicans and the entire Democratic caucus in opposition. The bills passed by large margins in the House. Together the legislation would phase out teacher tenure and phase in performance pay, include student achievement and parental input in professional evaluations, and limit the scope of public-employee union collective bargaining.

I don’t know how well my friends in the Gem State appreciate the pun, but this development is no small potatoes. The newly-adopted legislation represents two-thirds of Idaho State Superintendent Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” initiative. The third bill, which has received technical changes in deliberation by the legislature, would increase the use of classroom technology and modify funding formulas to give local boards flexibility to increase class sizes and teacher pay.

Taken as a whole, the series of reforms represent a bold strategic change. As Ben’s article highlights, there were some disturbances along the way caused by opponents of the reform legislation. Not to the scale of Wisconsin, but including a vandalized truck and some anonymous threats.

The School Reform News story follows closely on the heels of a first story Ben wrote about Luna’s proposals for Idaho. The only question that remains for me is: What kind of potatoes would be the best metaphor for this new education reform program? I’m thinking Tater Tots… other than the fact they’re really yummy (especially with ketchup), I can’t say exactly why. But I’ve always wanted to post a picture of them on the blog:

Tater Tots!