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Guest Editorial from First Lady Lori Otter

Written By onci on Friday, February 18, 2011 | 4:16 PM

The following is a guest editorial released today by First Lady Lori Otter.

STUDENTS COME FIRST INVESTS IN IDAHO’S TEACHERS
By First Lady Lori Otter

Whether you have been at the head of the classroom or in a desk on the other end, you know the importance of quality teaching. It makes all the difference.
With the help of a great teacher, a struggling student can excel. Under an ineffective teacher, that student may never catch up. We know this from our own school experiences, as well as extensive research.
The teacher is and always will be the most important factor in student success.

If we truly want to put students first, we have to make sure we invest in Idaho’s teachers. That’s exactly what the Students Come First plan does.

As a former teacher, I am excited about the possibilities this plan provides for great teachers now and in the future.
Some have claimed this plan “devalues teachers.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the only option that actually invests in teachers.
Right now, our state faces an unprecedented funding cliff. We cannot cut our schools more. We cannot raise taxes on hard-working Idahoans. Taxpayers and parents want the government to figure how to do more with less. Students Come First gets us there.
Through this plan, Idaho will save $500 million over the next five years – all of which gets reinvested back into the classroom.
Half of this money goes directly into teacher pay. While other states are cutting teacher salaries, Idaho is working to put $250 million into raising pay for teachers, restoring the funding grid, and finally rewarding excellence in the classroom.
Pay-for-performance will be in addition to the base salary. Why am I excited about this? Well, if I was still in the classroom, I could earn up to $8,000 in bonuses a year. We have great teachers all across our state. It’s time we showed our appreciation.
Teachers also will have access to advanced technology through an unprecedented $53 million investment in hardware, software and professional development. Every year, teachers vie for technology grants for their classrooms. Now, this will be commonplace in every school. Technology provides many opportunities for teachers to work smarter, not harder.

Above all, the state of Idaho will establish a professional, quality working environment for educators. From now on, teachers will be evaluated on their skills and performance, not longevity. Evaluations will be fair and equitable. Student achievement will be measured based on academic growth, not solely on proficiency. All professional development will focus on what students and teachers need.
These are the things highly effective teachers have been demanding for years. I heard it as a classroom teacher, at the administrative level, as a citizen, and the First Lady of Idaho. Through Students Come First, we can finally provide teachers with the tools they need to help raise student achievement.

The time is now. In the words of Gabriela Mistral (1945 Nobel Laureate in Literature): “Many things can wait; children cannot. Today, their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, and their senses are being developed. To Them, we cannot say ‘tomorrow.’ Their name is Today.”

Let’s work together to make sure our Students Come First…Today.

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