Education reform attention turns to Idaho

By Wayne Hoffman

The failed multimillion dollar campaign to boot Wisconsin Gov. Scott
Walker from office is on its way to Idaho. We don’t know what form it
will take, but you can imagine that some of the messages tried in
Wisconsin will also be attempted here—all in an effort to return
Idaho’s education system to a status quo that empowers labor unions
and puts their interests ahead of schoolchildren.

The labor unions don’t like that Idaho’s education reforms are
allowing excellent teachers to be recognized and rewarded for their
great work, is creating heightened transparency in the union
negotiation process, has restored the power of elected school boards
and now provides a means for school districts and their students to
take advantage of technological innovation.

Opponents, chiefly the Idaho Education Association, want things
returned to the way they used to be, and they’re determined to get
Idaho voters to reject three measures that will be on the November
ballot.

Unfortunately for Idaho’s education reform opponents, but fortunately
for Idaho students and their parents, the messages in Wisconsin fell
flat. TV ads meant to invoke voter anger didn’t deliver.

My favorite TV ad features a series of protagonists charging that Gov.
Walker has destroyed Wisconsin’s public education system: “Scott
Walker,” the ad begins, “you can’t improve our schools when you cut
$800 million from education, increase classes sizes (with) 3,000 fewer
educators in our state.”
Wisconsin voters, like those in Idaho, are smarter than that.
Here’s the message from another TV campaign: “Governor Walker’s
counted you out … He destroyed workers’ rights, then Wisconsin jobs.
Now, if you’re not earning equal pay for equal work, it’s harder to
fight back.”

Another flop.

Still another: “In Wisconsin, we have a tradition of working together,
but Scott Walker ignored that by eliminating collective bargaining,
taking away 50 years of workers’ rights.”

One ad tried a mash-up between Walker’s administration and that of
President Nixon’s during Watergate scandal.
“What did Scott Walker know and when did he know it?” MSNBC
commentator Ed Schultz asks in an ad that draws on black and white
news clips featuring Walter Cronkite.

The McClatchy-Tribune News Service says some $80 million was spent on
the recall election, more than double previous records for that state.
And despite all of that money and all of that messaging, the campaign
to undo Walker’s reforms fell short.

In the months leading up to the November election in Idaho, education
reform opponents will hurl all sorts of interesting allegations
regarding education reform, all in an attempt to retain power at the
expense of student achievement.

It’s important to remember why education reform is important: Idaho’s
schoolchildren deserve the very best education system we can offer.
They deserve a system that puts the interest of students first, which
means the retention of the best teachers, the best technology and
empowered, accountable school boards.

Today, because of education reform, parents can be assured that in
Idaho’s school system, the students come first. Students can be
assured that they’ll be using 21st century technology and 21st
innovative learning methods. Teachers can be assured they’ll be
rewarded for hard work. Taxpayers can be assured they’re getting the
best bang for their buck. And if voters heed Wisconsin’s lead and
uphold Idaho education reforms with three yes votes, it will continue
to stay that way.

Wayne Hoffman is Executive Director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.