Revisiting props 1,2,3. Can I interest any of you in some unfunded mandates?? “They are freeeeeeee”
Proposition 3: puts computers first, students and teachers last
Proposition 3 is a largely unfunded state mandate that forces local schools to spend millions on expensive technology before they spend money reducing the size of overcrowded classes, providing classroom supplies, ensuring student safety and on other important priorities. It also requires all students to take online courses in order to graduate from high school. Proposition 3 is the third top-down mandate pushed through the legislature by State Supt. Tom Luna. It puts the interest of out-of-state companies that sell computers and technology before the interests of Idaho students and teachers.
If the measure passes, property taxes could increase in school districts across the state. Why? Because school administrators will be required to hand out expensive tax-payer funded laptop computers to every high school student in the state. Not only did the politicians in the state legislature fail to provide additional money for these purchases in years to come, but given that kids will be kids, this measure will end up costing many millions more for repairs and replacements than is currently estimated, and local school districts and taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. Local school boards will be forced to pay for the costs by further increasing class sizes, cutting pay for teachers and other school employees, shortening the school year, eliminating extra-curricular activities and enrichment programs, and/or raising local property taxes.
And while all our children might get these expensive computers, many won’t be able to make good of use them. Last year, Idaho was ranked as having one of the slowest Internet speeds in the nation*. The problem is worse in rural areas. Yet Proposition 3 requires students in every part of the state to take at least two online courses to graduate. With Internet access what it is today in Idaho, this law puts many students at a disadvantage, setting them up to fail.
Before he wrote this law, Supt. Luna received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the companies that now stand to make millions selling computer equipment and services to the state**. One of these companies, K12 Inc., that state’s largest online course provider, is being sued for alleged lying about student performance and deceptive recruiting practices***. They were even caught sending students’ English essays overseas to reviewers in India for grading. The last thing we should do is use our taxpayer dollars to outsource Idaho teaching jobs and our students’ education.
Everyone agrees that instruction in up-to-date technology is essential in preparing our students for the modern world. But Proposition 3’s costly, top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates are the wrong way to proceed. Like the other Luna laws, it is full of unintended consequences. And like the other Luna laws, it is bad for children, bad for teachers and bad for Idaho.
*New York Times, September 13, 2011
**Idaho Statesman, February 20, 2011
***Washington Post, January 31, 2012