In yesterday’s main Hotline post, we wrote about how the Luna plan would significantly change individual teachers’ relationships with their school district. Today, we provide additional details found in the “Labor Relations & Employee Entitlements” proposal.
The bill redefines the four types of teaching contracts offered in Idaho. In every instance, the changes further erode fair employment practices.
Any teacher beginning the first year of employment in a school district will be offered a Category A contract. This contract, commonly referred to as a terminal contract, terminates at the end of the school year. Currently, districts have the option of offering this type of contract to any teacher hired after August 1. Under the Luna plan, the state mandates that every new certificated employee will be offered this type of contract. Consequently, if an employee with a Category A contract wishes to remain employed in the school district the following year, it will require reapplication to the district.
Category B contracts would replace the current Category 2 contract. Districts would be allowed to offer these limited one year contracts to all teachers in the second or greater years of continuous employment with their school district. Similar to current law, if for some reason the district chose not to reemploy a Category B contract teacher, the individual would have no opportunity to meet with the school board to review the reasons for termination. Unlike current law, the school board would not be required to notify the employee of his or her non-reemployment until July 1, more than a full month later than current law requires.
Category C contracts would replace the current Category 3 contract. Supt. Luna has referred to these as two-year rolling contracts. They would be available for school districts to offer to any certificated employee who has taught continuously in the district for four or more years. However, the district could choose to never use this contract. If the district chose to not reemploy a teacher holding a Category C contract, he or she would be notified by July 1, and would also be granted an informal review with the board. This contract category is a significant departure from current law. Under current law, a struggling teacher with three years of service is notified of his or her deficiencies, given resources, administrative support and a period of time to address those deficiencies. Under the Luna plan, Category C teachers would no longer receive a probationary period.
As we pointed out yesterday, Renewable Contracts would replace the current Continuing Contracts. Only those teachers who currently have continuing contract status would be eligible to receive a renewable contract. However, unlike current law, the Luna plan severely limits the fair employment rights of renewable contract holders. Under Luna’s plan, the district would no longer be required to have just and reasonable cause for not renewing a renewable contract teacher at the end of his or her contract. Additionally, if a terminated employee chose to appeal a board’s decision through legal channels, Luna’s bill would limit the court’s decision-making authority. All teachers with renewable contract status in their current school district would lose that status if they moved to another district. Luna’s proposal would mandate that the new employer could only offer the teacher a Category B or C contract.
Unlike current contract law, the Luna plan would also allow the school district to change the length of an individual teacher contract and/or reduce the pay, without allowing the teacher(s) to be heard by the board.
What about experienced teachers moving into Idaho from another state? What kind of contract can they be offered? Luna’s plan gives the hiring district a bit of flexibility by allowing them to offer these new hires a Category C contract, if they have had prior teaching experience in another state.
Under the Luna plan, school districts will be required to provide all employees with one written evaluation each year. Interestingly, the plan breaks down an individual evaluation into two “portions.” The first portion of the evaluation, which must be completed by February 1 each year, requires the district to include input from parents or guardians of the students you teach; the second portion must be based how well your students achieve academic growth. In fact, at least 50 percent of the total written evaluation must be based on “objective measures of growth in student achievement.” In an odd twist, the Luna plan prohibits any legal recourse on the part of the teacher, if the district fails to comply with this portion of the law.
EXTENDED OR EXTRA DAY CONTRACTS:
Currently, teachers have a property right in their extra or extended day contracts. Under Luna’s plan, those days, like extra duty assignments, must be documented on supplemental contracts, thereby losing any property right protections.
STATE MANDATES/LOSS OF LOCAL CONTROL:
Under Luna’s plan, the above-discussed contract and evaluation requirements constitute state mandates. Under current law, statutory contract and evaluation requirements constitute minimum standards: school boards and local education associations are free to agree to different and greater fair employment practices for teachers. Under Luna’s plan, school boards would be prohibited from entering into such arrangements.
Idaho Code currently assures school districts will receive at least 99 percent of the funding they received the previous year. This is an especially important funding protection, particularly in those local districts where student population may drop precipitously from one year to the next. The 99 percent protection assures districts they can continue to operate programs at the same level for one year, while they plan how to reorganize programs and people.
In order to pay for his education overhaul package, the superintendent’s proposal eliminates this portion of the law and adds a provision in every individual teaching contract that allows the local school board to terminate the contract, should student enrollment drop by more than 1 percent in any given year. Under his proposal, the district must notify any affected employee no later than October 1. Luna’s plan would forbid the school district from using seniority as a factor in making a decision to terminate an individual teacher’s contract. In return, the teacher whose contract is severed would receive a severance check equal to 10 percent of his or her contract. Under this proposal, it is not unrealistic to assume that a 28-year veteran teacher who is making $40,000 could begin the school year in mid-August, work with students for nearly half the first quarter, and be told his services are no longer needed. In return he would be handed a $4,000 and join Idaho’s unemployment roll – and children would be herded into larger classrooms.
It’s clear that the Luna bills, if made law, would be very damaging to Idaho children, teachers, and our economy. Lawmakers need to know these details. Now is the time to email your Senator and request a NO vote on the Luna bills.