Yes to reform - and teachers

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On Friday and Sunday, The Press will publish editorials explaining the editorial board's support for the three education propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot. But before we tell you why we believe these are important steps in elevating public education in Idaho, we want to state unequivocally our support for all the great teachers in our state and particularly in North Idaho.

The public education structure has fallen far behind what's needed for Idaho's students to compete in tomorrow's work world. Education isn't alone in having fallen behind; in the blink of an eye the world has changed faster and more dramatically than ever before, and few have adjusted sufficiently. Yet public education will flourish again because it continues to attract some of the finest, most dedicated professionals. Within a more effective structure, those individuals will be public education's salvation.

Why do teachers feel demonized? Part of the problem is the "us vs. them" drumbeat from unions that allegedly represent them, but it's also true that it's demoralizing to be identified as a target in a reform movement that has swept almost every state of the union. As is generally the case, a few poorly equipped or insufficiently motivated employees can give an entire profession a bad name. Fortunately, the education industry is still populated primarily by good teachers and administrators who lack only better tools and better direction.

Just as we applaud all the great teachers, we lament the fact that Idaho's reform movement has been backed by a group of antagonists for all the wrong reasons. With some of these folks, "reform" is a code word for "attack;" in their eyes, the dismantling of public education in favor of religious or other dogma-directed instruction is the real objective. In that sense, there is a bad taste left in the mouth as we're about to issue ardent support for the three propositions. We regret that some will lump us in with a political/religious faction whose actions reflect their personal beliefs more than they represent what's best for most children.

We favor stronger public education with higher standards not just so our students can compete with anyone in any classroom, but so they can capture and keep good jobs when they're ready. It has long been our belief that a good life starts with a good job. Good jobs usually come to those with a good education.

Let's all remember that the single greatest determinant in quality education is the teacher. Teachers who feel support, even love, during the most difficult times of transition will reward you many times over for your belief in them.

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