Marketing Boise Schools

Education is difficult to understand.

In Boise they have to build new schools when there are too many students and they have to build new schools when they don’t have enough students.

We have a school bond election coming soon which is part of a plan to combine, close, and improve some school buildings. Bonds cover only “books and facilities”, not operating expenses like salaries.

A portion of the operating expenses comes from the state of Idaho based on the number of students enrolled. The formula is complex and most of those who pay or spend the funds don’t understand it. The rate varies depending on many factors–Boise gets less than most districts per student.

The GUARDIAN thinks young minds need to be educated–not viewed as “revenue sources” in a mindless numbers game that depends on increasing population, more houses, cars, school buses, sewers, cops…you get the picture!

The Boise school population declined by 465 students this year, based in part on a “shifting demographic.” That means more old people without kids. Seems to us that would be a good sign–people paying taxes, but not using the system.

At first blush the GUARDIAN is opposed to some of the “marketing strategies” being discussed by the Boise School Board which include encouraging huge subdivisions with “student-producing populations” (breeding humans).

While Boise City officials are hell bent on creating upscale apartments and condos in the downtown core–catering to young singles and retirees, the school district on the other hand is eager to attract breeding age adults to single family dwellings. These policies don’t appear to be compatible–at least they are not mutually beneficial.

The other plan is to look at a creating school based on the performing arts to attract students.

This approach sounds like a cruise ship ad, “Thrill to the sounds of young musicians, chuckle at comedic actors, enjoy massed voices singing your favorite tunes. Reasons to move YOUR kids to the Boise School District!”

MORE and BIGGER is not the answer to this problem, but we have to admit we don’t have an answer either at this point. We do know that “enticing” students or businesses to our fair city is NOT the answer.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Treva Hamilton
    Nov 28, 2005, 9:39 pm

    Perhaps someone has already suggested this idea and I have forgotten who it was, but it seems to me that Boise and Meridian school districts should merge….heaven forbid we should remove a few dozen administrative positions, but we need to promote efficiency.

    It should be apparent by now that the population is aging and the school population will obviously drop. Perhaps we should look at this as a positive move. When all the problems of society are considered it would be hard to argue against the idea that overpopulation is the major problem. We should look at the positive side of this: smaller classes, better opportunities for the next generation, less pressure on the environment, more open space, more space for other species, less need for highways. Think of it as a nation on a diet – we will all feel better for having shed some excess pounds.

  2. This is long but worth reading. This system would certainly solve many of our issues with public education.

    New Zealand – A Model for Improving Idaho’s Public Education System

    By Gale L. Pooley

    Faced with financial and academic achievement problems, New Zealand made three simple reforms that dramatically reversed the productivity of their public education system.

    Idaho and New Zealand had two things in common; sheepherding and poorly performing public education systems. But things have recently changed. Idaho has lost most of its sheep and New Zealand has completely revamped its public education system. New Zealand students were scoring about 15 percent below average on international tests. Today, they score 15 percent above average. How did this happen?

    The New Zealand education system was failing about 30 percent of its children. Idaho’s ISAT is indicating about the same failure rate here in the Gem State. Like Idaho, New Zealand’s cost per student had doubled in 20 years with no improvement in achievement. New Zealanders came to realize bureaucratic wolves were fleecing them in a government monopoly system that lacked the incentives to improve. The Land of Lambs implement three simple yet profound changes:

    First they eliminated all of the Boards of Education in the country. Every single school came under the control of a board of trustees elected by the parents of the children at that school, and by nobody else. Talk about local control!

    Second, they funded schools based on the number of students that went to them, with no strings attached and no Byzantine formulas.

    Third, and most importantly, they told the parents that they had an absolute right to choose where their children would go to school. New Zealanders realized it was absolutely obnoxious that anybody would tell parents that they must send their children to a bad school.

    Maurice P. McTigue, who led the reform effort in the New Zealand Parliament, said this right to choose has the greatest effect on the quality of education.

    The country’s 4,500 schools were converted to this new system all on the same day.

    They also made it possible for privately owned schools to be funded in exactly the same way as publicly owned schools, giving parents the ability to spend their education dollars at the school best-suited to their children’s needs.

    Everybody predicted that there would be a major exodus of students from the public to the private schools, because the private schools showed an academic advantage of 14 to 15 percent. It didn’t happen. In 24 months the public schools caught up with the private schools. Why? Because teachers realized that if they lost their students, they would lose their funding; and if they lost their funding, they would lose their jobs.

    Eighty-five percent of students went to public schools at the beginning of this process. That fell to only about 84 percent over the first year or so of the reforms. But three years later, 87 percent of the students were going to public schools. Incentives truly matter. New Zealand learned that competition drives quality to the highest common denominator, while monopolies drive it to the lowest.

    New Zealand bureaucrats and politicians can no longer pull the wool over the eyes of parents and taxpayers. If Idaho wants to improve our public education system, we should take a lesson from the Kiwi country.


  3. GUARDIAN hit it on the head when he referenced the “upscale apartments and condos in the downtown core”– add to that the outrageous inflation of home prices in the more desireable Boise neighborhoods, and you have the gentrification formula that effectively forces young families that don’t make over 70K per year into the cheaper environs of far west Boise and Meridian. I know of several people who’d love to live in the North or East Ends and send their kids to the neighborhood schools, but have been priced out of the market. Once upon a time, the North End was an economically diverse area where a young family of modest means could find a decent starter home. Ironically, it may take a bursting of the real estate bubble to stabilize the school age population and re-up the student numbers. I’d like to see it happen, and I say that as a North End homeowner.

  4. My first year in school was in a one room school house. No electricity, central heating or air conditioning, phone, running water, etc. The parents of the kids that attended the school paid the teacher. Sometimes room, sometimes board, sometimes money, depending on who could afford what. The teacher lived with each child’s family periodically throughout the school year and sometimes had to teach the parents to read and write. If the other families without children were treated well by the children and their parents, then the teacher usually got a bonus at the end of the school year and an invite to teach the next school year. The teacher also got room and board and work during the summer from all the families. I wish I was 5 again.

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