The future of Idaho education

The Future of Idaho Education

REXBURG, Idaho - Dr. Geoffrey Thomas, superintendent of Madison School District 321, has been chosen by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter as one of 31 people on the Idaho Education Task Force.

Here is his perspective on Idaho education.

"I think everybody would agree the number one issue facing schools today in Idaho would be funding," said KIDK news anchor, Todd Kunz.

"One of the main things when I got on the committee and I was up front the very first day and the very first meeting. I said the number one thing we need to address is fiscal stability, everything else is tangential, everything else is periphery," said Thomas.

"Where is Idaho lacking when it comes to education? Are we? Some might say we're fine the way we are," said Kunz.

"Where we're lacking is funding. We're $100 million short in revenue from where we were in 2007. So it's 2013, six years ago we were spending a $100 million more than we are today," said Thomas.

"And we hear cut education, cut education...," said Kunz.

"We hear all you educators ever talk about is you want more money. That's like telling a staving person all you talk about is food. We're at the stage now, Todd, that if something isn't done and done in a hurry, we're going to lose school districts. Resources are needed for everything. We need money for teachers, qualified teachers, for technicians, for technology, for buses, for food, for security systems. You can't do this by intentions alone. We need real substantive reform and it needs to start with financing," said Thomas.

"How then do you turn that around?" Kunz asked.

"I really believe we need to restore confidence in public education. When we are consumer oriented and I always say parents are our consumers. And we need to be flexible and responsive to parent needs and parent requests," said Thomas.

"When it comes to school security and your customer, the parent, puts their student on a bus, what is the answer that they can have the assurity knowing their student is safe?" asked Kunz.

"You know there's not one single answer. There are a host of things that we can do, that we have done to try to make school more safe. I would personally like to see funding available to have resource officers in each of our buildings, and armed and trained. People who know the kids, who know the community, and can recognize, so they know that they're there," said Thomas.

"Some have gone even further. Arm teachers, is that too much?" asked Kunz.

"My personal opinion, I'm not against the idea as long as they get the permit and training and not just on how to use the weapon, but the mindset on having the weapon, because those are two different things. Someone might be able to use it, I mean how the gun functions, but do they have the mindset? We're educators. We have the mindset to nurture others. We're not law enforcement," said Thomas.

Idaho school districts receive about 85 percent of their funding from the state, said Thomas. He added Idaho spends $4,077 on one student during the entire time from kindergarten through 12th grade. This ranks Idaho 50th according to Thomas.

The next Idaho Education Task Force meeting is scheduled Friday, February 8. Here are the 31 members of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's education task force:

Richard Westerberg, Chair

State Board of Education

Doug Baker

University of Idaho

Laurie Boeckel

Idaho Parent Teacher Association

Roger Brown

Governor's Office

Cheryl Charlton

Idaho Digital Learning Academy

Linda Clark

IASA, Joint School Dist. No. 2 (Meridian)

Penni Cyr

Idaho Education Association (IEA)

Reed DeMordaunt (R)

Idaho House of Representatives

Karen Echeverria

Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA)

Ken Edmunds

State Board of Education

Wayne Freedman

ISBA Past President

John Goedde (R)

Idaho State Senate

Steve Higgins

IASA, Grangeville School Dist.

Mary Huff

ISBA, Melba School Board Member

Teresa Jackman

IEA, Pocatello

Alex LaBeau

Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry

Mike Lanza

IEA, ID Parents & Teachers IPATT

Rod Lewis

State Board of Education

Bob Lokken

Idaho Business for Education

Tom Luna

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Alan Millar

Idaho Charter School Network

Phyllis Nichols

Counselor, New Plymouth School Dist.

Katie Pemberton

Coeur d'Alene School Dist.

Roger Quarles

Idaho Leads Project

Mary Ann Ranells

IASA, Lakeland School Dist.

Anne Ritter

ISBA President, Meridian School Board Member

Brian Smith

IEA, Sandpoint

Geoffrey Thomas

IASA, Madison School Dist.

Janie Ward-Engelking (D)

Idaho House of Representatives

Cindy Wilson

IEA, Meridian

Rob Winslow

Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA

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