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Idaho deserves better public education

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Idaho deserves better public education

May 17, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Rebecca Tallent
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Idaho deserves better public education
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Without a commitment to quality public education, Idaho cannot advance as quickly or as well as the state would like, writes guest columnist Rebecca Tallent. (Getty Images)
There is one overarching benefit to education: It improves lives.
Whether it be for a job, to further a career or for better pay, to learn more about cultural issues such as art or music, or simply for the enjoyment of learning, public education is important to everyone’s life. It provides knowledge, critical thinking skills, confidence, awareness and independence.
That is why a group of Latah County residents banded together to fight for public education as Idaho Deserves Better. The statewide group’s sole commitment is to ensure elected officials support pre-K through university education for all Idahoans.
The group started in April after various people expressed concern the state Legislature was forsaking public education, said Kathy LaPointe, the group’s chair.
“Our premise is to elect people at all levels who support public education, pre-K through college, and work to unseat legislators who do not support public education, regardless of party affiliation” LaPointe said. “The Idaho Constitution mandates support of a robust public education system, not private education or vouchers.”
LaPointe said the group supports all public education, including schools for trades such as HVAC, nursing, construction management and other high demand areas.
“Education is an economic issue,” she added. “If we don’t invest in our public education, the economy will suffer, which means fewer jobs, fewer tax dollars, weakened schools – it’s a downward spiral. For Idaho kids to find a job and become contributing taxpayers in our state, they need training/education.”
LaPointe’s point is clear, one that has been heard in the business world for generations. If a state cannot provide quality public education at all levels, business and industry will move, or refuse to bring their jobs to that state.
A 2013 report by Curtis R. Cobert at Virginia Commonwealth University clearly explained the issues. To compete for new jobs, states and local communities need a robust public educational system in place.
“Quality public schools help improve the human capital of an area,” Cobert wrote, “which in turn helps draw businesses looking to locate in resources heavy environments.”
In other words, if an area has a good quality public education base, a company will move there for the brain power already in the community.
And it isn’t just for the job experience. Yes, companies want quality critical thinkers who have the expertise for jobs, but business also looks for quality of life issues for their employees. This means good pre-K-12 public schools, good arts and entertainment venues and quality outdoor/recreational facilities.
In short, everything Idaho owns, except for the quality of public education.
Part of the problem is legislators who do not support public education. Those who vote against schools, calling them “pork” and claiming they are too expensive. Have these legislators ever been involved in public education? Do they understand the financial costs involved?
Teaching requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for pre-K –12 education, post-secondary frequently requires a minimum of a master’s, often a Ph.D. or educational doctorate. The cost of hiring these qualified people is higher than a small business, but the cost is necessary to achieve the goal of properly training students.
Skimming the surface, there are also the costs of staff to efficiently run the programs, proper materials such as computers, and buildings plus maintaining those buildings. There is a lot more, but the bottom line is: Education is expensive.
Yet it is an expense many of us strongly believe is necessary for society.
As a reporter, I once asked a pharmaceutical executive if his company would consider Oklahoma as an option for their new manufacturing facility. His reply was, “No. Oklahoma does not have the quality public educational facilities we need.”
Idaho is in the same boat.
Without a commitment to quality public education, Idaho cannot advance as quickly or as well as the state would like. Legislators who refuse to support public education are basically shooting the state in the foot by keeping quality businesses and industries at bay just because the state does not have the educational base.
This is an election year, and for Idaho to truly move forward in the 21st century, voters need to check for whom they are casting their vote. Candidates who do not support public education should receive the message that Idaho truly deserves better.