Commentary: How Obama's education reform looks to Idaho

The Idaho StatesmanFebruary 3, 2011 

President Obama has challenged the nation to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the next decade.

Idaho schools superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform plan hinges upon cutting 770 teaching jobs over two years.

I was struck by the contrast. And as the Legislature prepares for a defining debate over the future of its schools, I was struck by Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, and the time and focus the president devoted to education issues.

Obama’s education agenda isn’t far removed from Idaho’s agenda.

Obama touted his “Race to the Top” grant program; Luna sought money for Idaho, unsuccessfully.

Obama took George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education law — unpopular even in Republican Idaho — and introduced it to the underside of the bus. Obama promised to replace NCLB with a law “that’s more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.”

Obama touted postsecondary education in terms much like the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation’s “Go On” ad campaign.

While cash-strapped Idaho has taken small steps to increase college scholarships, Obama pushed Congress to make permanent a four-year $10,000 tuition tax credit. (A noble goal, but what gets cut to fit this into Obama’s five-year freeze on domestic spending?)

When it comes to merit pay, this Obama line could have easily been a Luna line. “We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.”

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