Today was among the busiest days yet of the 2012 Idaho Legislature for education news, as one committee held off taking action on a bill that would limit classified employees’ rights and another decided to print a bill that would force budget writers to fund teacher salaries that would otherwise be decreased by Tom Luna’s education reforms.
This afternoon, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde (R-Coeur d’Alene) decided to seek an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office on S1297, a bill that puts new limits on Education Support Professionals’ rights to file a grievance. Goedde’s move came after strong testimony from Idaho Education Association General Counsel Paul Stark and several ESP members.
Stark opened his comments by saying that many classified employees are already forced to choose between seeking justice or keeping their job, and this bill would make them feel even more intimidated. Under the current statute, at-will classified employees have always had a six-day limit in which they must file a grievance. But under changes in S1297, they must file a grievance or they give up their right to pursue action through the state courts. Stark said no other workers in Idaho would face such a limit to their constitutional rights. He also argued that in the 23 years since the statute was enacted in 1989, there have only been four reported court cases and the last one was 12 years ago. “It’s difficult to see the wisdom of this bill,” he added. “The process is working.” Read more about the hearing on our Twitter feed.
This morning, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) asked that panel to print a bill that would change Tom Luna’s education reform laws to eliminate the funding requirement for its technology and pay-for-performance mandates which are currently paid for through reductions in teacher salaries. The first such shift has already happened this year to the tune of $14.7 million, but Cameron wants to stop the planned $19.4 million shift for FY2013 and future years.
Cameron was a strong opponent of the reforms last year, voting no on all three bills. He told the panel, “Should this bill pass, it would force the responsibility on us (the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee) to find the funding to pay for performance and for technology moving forward, rather than us finding funding to backfill reductions in salary-based apportionment,” he said. (Luna has asked JFAC to backfill next year’s transfer, but only as a one-time measure.) Cameron continued: “From my perspective, the motives for bringing this forward are to clean up what I thought was an inappropriate step, and … that we budget for items that are approved by this Legislature and that we not do it through salary-based reduction.”
Finally, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee this morning sent the teacher tax credit legislation, H517, to the full House with a do-pass recommendation.