Even before the ISBA introduced their slew of labor bills, IEA representatives were concerned with the decision by State Board of Education members who are overseeing the work of the Governor’s Task Force to remove labor issues from task force discussion.
IEA representatives to the task force have raised this issue at every task force meeting.
Because we fear this decision, coupled with the introduction of the labor bills in the legislature has the potential to derail the work of the Governor’s Task Force, IEA President Penni Cyr has delivered the following letter to Governor Otter. We reprint it here for your information.
Dear Governor Otter:
On behalf of the members of the Idaho Education Association, it has become necessary that we share our unease about the work of the task force you organized to oversee a discussion of education reform in Idaho.
In your press release announcing this task force in late December, you asked participants to come to the table and to talk openly and candidly about the issues. You also stated that you were committed to increasing support for Idaho’s educators. I was buoyed by your comments, and I know my colleagues who work in Idaho’s schools and who have felt disheartened and demoralized over the past few years felt a sense of optimism in contemplating the potential outcomes of the task force.
At the very first meeting of the task force, the chairman announced that there would be no consideration of labor issues by this group. In subsequent conversations about this issue with State Board of Education members who sit on the task force, we were told the issues outlined in Prop 1 are “just too political.”
I am certain that you are aware that legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate Education Committees. Many of the ideas and verbiage has been pulled verbatim from Prop 1. We have also been contacted by several superintendents who have signaled their intent to reintroduce a new alternative compensation scheme, even as your task force is talking about differentiated pay structures.
Our organization does not believe that Proposition 1 or the current bills that have resurrected some of the very same ideas would have any impact on student achievement or college matriculation rates. Nevertheless, there are obviously some who believe that such changes must move forward, in spite of the public opposition that was so clearly expressed at the polls. While we don’t believe these proposals constitute reform, they clearly still loom large in discussions about education policy in Idaho. And by excluding them from consideration by the task force, the Legislature has been given carte blanche to pursue their own version of “reform” that is counterproductive and erodes the spirit of good faith that we had wished to bring to the task force.
I hope you can help us understand how the current accumulation of bills advances your goals of real education improvement. Why shouldn’t educators feel betrayed by the exclusion from the task force’s purview of matters that are important to us and are residual issues from the contentious debates of the last two years?
As the task force considers major challenges facing Idaho’s schools, such as teacher compensation, recruitment, and retention, reintroducing some of the most reviled elements of Prop 1 only damages the task force’s effort and public faith. Driving one agenda through the legislature instead of using the process you have put in place is simply wrong.
Governor, in the eyes of the public, there is no distinction between the separate efforts now underway in the task force and the Legislature. It’s about the process, and if we once again ignore the importance of input from all parties on all of the important education issues, the success of this new process is jeopardized.
We came to the task force full of hope that we could be a part of helping to create a plan to improve our state’s public schools. We did not fool ourselves into believing this would be an easy task, but we did believe you meant it when you said the task force would be talking openly and candidly about the issues.
We urge you and the members of the State Board of Education, who you’ve asked to guide the work of the task force, to make this process one that will succeed. If we learned anything from the last election, it’s that without public buy-in and faith that this effort is free of political agendas, parents and educators won’t embrace it and it risks failure.
Education Committee Chairs to Address JFAC
Sen. John Goedde (R-CDA) and Rep. Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) spent time today discussing the K-12 budget with members of their committee. Both legislators are scheduled to address the members of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee tomorrow morning.
You can listen (http://www.idahoptv.org/insession/leg.cfm) to their presentations beginning at 8 AM.
House Committee to Hear FY 13 Funding Bill
Members of the House Education Committee will consider HB 65 (http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2013/H0065.htm), the bill that would ensure local school district budgets are not negatively impacted for the remainder of this school year. Proposition 3 included changes to the public school funding formula that, without legislative intervention, would shortchange districts as much as $30 million for the remainder of FY13. This piece of legislation, co-sponsored by Sen. Goedde and Rep. DeMordaunt, assures schools will receive all of the funds they initially anticipated receiving and upon which their current budgets are set.
The IEA supports this short-term fix that holds districts harmless for the remainder of this year.
House Democrats To Hold Special Meeting
Rep’s. Shirley Ringo (D-Moscow) and Phylis King (D-Boise) have announced plans to hold a “Listening Session” for state employees and teachers. The sponsors point out that this is the first time state employees have had an opportunity such as this to speak directly to the legislature.
All state employees and education employees are invited to come prepared to talk about anything relating to their work: wages, benefits, facilities, workload, morale, anything.
The event is set for Monday, February 18 from 4-6 PM in EW42 at the Capitol.