Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rep. Chavez: A better education blueprint

A few weeks ago, Idahoans were outraged to hear of legislation that would trigger unprecedented damage to public education. Last night, Rep. Liz Chavez of Lewiston sent word via her email letter to constituents that a bipartisan committee has come to agreement on a less-damaging version of the bill:

Even though I'm in my second term as one of your state representatives, I continue to learn and discover both the strengths and weaknesses of individuals, and of the process as a whole. And while sometimes I am dismayed at some of the legislation and ideology that drives some of the more unusual pieces of of legislation, I have also found legislators and lobbyists who are good hearted, well meaning, intelligent, and patriotic Idahoans.

Sometimes ideology and procedure collide, and when that happens, if we're lucky we get the opportunity to help broker compromise and cooperation that results in excellent policy that will stand the test of time.

I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to participate in just such a scenario regarding setting policy to address a catastrophic economic emergency and the impact on education. It so happens that we find ourselves in such a situation now, but in order that we not just react in fear, for now and the future, cool heads have been put together to craft a blueprint for where we go from here.

The impetus for this group to get together and figure out how to address the shortfall in the department of Education wasHB117 and 118. There was such a hue and cry from all parts of the state, from parents to teachers to school boards to legislators. Instead of just allowing that anger to run amuck, leadership in the House asked Rep. Rich Wills to facilitate a working group consisting of the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Education Association, the Administrators Association, the Rural Schools Association, and legislators.

The overriding concern has been, and rightly so, that the children, small and big, know that they can count on their schools being open, the lights turned on, and a teacher to help them learn and grow. As we focused on meeting the needs of Idaho's students, all those who have an interest in meeting those needs came together and while it has taken a 7:00am meeting every day for 3 weeks, today we came to agreement and hope to have legislation ready for the sponsor of HB117 to present to the House Education Committee for consideration.

This enewsletter has been heavy on education, but keeping education as whole as possible for Idaho's children and their future, realizing that there are people losing their jobs every day, is as critical to the recovery of our state and country as having "shovel ready" projects that put Idahoans back to work.

I believe in our country, I believe that working together we are going to come out of this crisis. I also believe in each one of you and your ability to help make recovery a reality for our ourselves and our economy.