BLACKFOOT — The Blackfoot Education Association hosted an open forum with Rep. Dennis Lake and Sen. Steve Bair Tuesday night to allow teachers and others in the community to openly discuss issues prior to the start of the 2012 Idaho legislative session.
"We wanted an opportunity to visit with them, remind them of our concerns," said organizer Bekki Mangum, who teaches at Mountain View Middle School.
The forum turned into a roundtable discussion with teachers expressing their concerns about education including budget cuts, education reform, pay for performance and online classes.
Those in attendance were in consensus—they are not against change and forward progress but are concerned that under-performing students will fall through the cracks in order to improve overall performance. They are also concerned that the Students Come First legislation came without warning and was passed despite overwhelming public opposition.
"Teachers feel like they were left out, I hear that loud and clear," Bair said.
The budget carries the most concern for teachers who have already experienced reductions at the local level.
"We took some pretty detrimental cuts last year," Mangum said. "We have felt the cuts with some people who have lost jobs."
Bair, who serves on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, said the budget will again be the legislature's biggest issue, but said cuts were made across the board—with some departments taking deep cuts—and it will take time to restore funding as state revenues increase.
When asked if changes to the education reform education were expected during the 2012 session, Lake said there will likely be changes to make the legislation more easily implemented but he doesn't anticipate additions to be made.