Does Silence Mean Consent?

“Silence means consent” is an often repeated phrase that is used to justify decisions. When it comes to education decision-making in Idaho, silence does not mean consent. Instead silence indicates a communication wall exists between the citizenry and government.

This wall exists between the Legislature and the citizens and between agencies and the citizens. The wall between agencies and citizens, and a guide to getting around the wall to have your voice heard, is the focus of this article.

The communication wall.

First of all, the wall can be taken down by a simple redesign of the two websites of the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education. Neither website makes it easy for the average citizen to find information. Neither presents itself as inviting participation by Idaho citizens. Both tuck notice of public forums in obscure places. However “we the people” can insist on more open and transparent government by contacting these agencies and by contacting our state senators and representatives and insisting on a design that makes it easy for the average citizen to access information on public hearings.

Getting your voice heard.

There are three important opportunities for Idahoans to give input on education matters. The meetings will take place around the State in the next several weeks. The topics are:

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  • School Funding
  • Accountability
  • ESSA

School Funding and Accountability input are managed by the State Board of Education. To find notices of meetings, citizens need to scroll down the menu on the left side of the home page and locate “Press and Publications”. “Press and Publications” will expand to show additional links. The “Press Release” link will show recent releases. Among these are press releases on public forums on accountability and school funding. Both documents provide background information and a complete listing of locations and dates of public forums. (Note: that the direct links to the files may not work. However the files can be accessed using the “press release” link)

The State Department of Education is holding public meetings on ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act). In order to access information about public meetings, the user of this site needs to locate a menu running from left to right across the upper part of the page. The menu begins with “schools” and ends with “departments”. From the pull-down menu for “departments”, the user selects communications. The communications section will have several press releases. The press release relating to the public ESSA forums can be accessed by clicking the link beginning with “Department to lead…”.

ESSA State Plan information and a progress report with background information are also available on the State Department of Education’s website.

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