Students protest school reform

Lake City seniors say they are worried about what legislation means to future children

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Tanner Williams, a freshman at Lake City High School, holds a sign protesting Idaho Superintendent of Education, Tom Luna's recent legislative proposal Thursday during a protest at the Coeur d'Alene Public Library as senior Valerie Marck chants in the background.

COEUR d'ALENE - Dozens of high school students gathered after school Thursday in downtown Coeur d'Alene to voice their opposition to Idaho public school chief Tom Luna's plan to revamp the state's education system.

The student protest took place as lawmakers on the Senate Education Committee in Boise were winding up a third day of taking public testimony regarding the proposed education reform legislation.

"I'm concerned for the future of our state," said Cody Main, an 18-year-old senior. "I think that this bill will cause more harm than good to education in Idaho."

Students chanted, "Kill the bill!" as they stood along Front Avenue, and waved signs stating, "We the students protest lunacy," and "Value my education. Luna does not," at passing cars and pedestrians.

Luna's plan, unveiled last month, calls for Idaho to arm all high school students with laptops while requiring that students take six online courses prior to graduation.

The plan would also phase out tenure for new teachers, tie some teacher pay to merit and award bonuses to those who take on hard-to-fill positions and leadership roles, while removing job security for those with seniority.

"It's going to be 'Terminator 3,'" said Clay Williamson, 16. "I figure too much technology will get rid of the good jobs and replace people with computers."

Kelsey Brice, 17, and one of the Lake City High School 12th-graders who organized the protest, said people might wonder why, as high school seniors, they feel so strongly about legislation that won't affect them directly.

"We want to save the future for our siblings and for our future children," Brice said.

Teachers at Lake City were not involved in the students' plan to stage the protest, she said, and students were told the activity could not take place at the school.

Teachers told students they could not lend their support to the students' efforts, she said.

Brice said she developed her position on the education legislation on her own.

"Before the election, Luna said Idaho has good test stores, that Idaho education is doing well, and somehow between November and January he comes up with this?" Brice said. "He did it in such a short amount of time, we're wondering if there is an ulterior motive."

Bekah Geren, 18, another student organizer, said she too has educated herself about the education reform package and its legislation.

"It's all public information," Geren said.

Geren shared dismay at the thought of an education system geared toward online learning because it will eliminate opportunities for students, especially those in arts programs.

"It seems really un-American. It's lacking ingenuity," Geren said. "I want to inform people this doesn't just affect students. It affects our posterity, as a nation, and the way we're going to get something done is by voicing our opinions."

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