House Education Committee Approves Bills
Members of the House Education Committee met for several hours this morning to take public testimony on two of the bills sponsored by the school boards association. These two bills are a part of the package of measures the stakeholders have been discussing since early in the session.
Both bills have been modified since they were initially introduced this session, but even with modifications, the IEA continues to oppose both of them.
The first bill, HB 259, addresses involuntary leaves of absence. It would allow a school district to put an employee on unpaid leave, if a criminal court order prevents the employee from doing his or her job while awaiting a legal decision. It would also assure that if a certificated employee is put on paid administrative leave, the district would have 60 days to complete an investigation and either return the teacher to the classroom or begin dismissal proceedings.
The IEA opposed HB 259 because it would essentially deny an individual the basic right of being considered innocent until proven guilty. And, in previous meetings with the other stakeholders, the IEA understood that there would be sunsets on the various pieces of legislation. This bill does not include a sunset provision.
Committee members debated the bill and an attempt to send the measure to the amending order was rejected in favor of sending it to the full House with a “do pass” recommendation.
The second bill, HB 260, would require the local school board to impose its “last best offer” at the negotiations table, if bargaining was not completed by June 10.
IEA President Penni Cyr was joined by several local association leaders in opposing this legislation. IEA Region 3 President Jason Vlcek (Payette) and Nampa Education Association President Mandy Simpson both recounted their bargaining experiences and their concerns about this legislation.
Each of the IEA leaders who testified urged committee members to reject the legislation and continue to provide local education association members and their school districts the necessary tools to successfully navigate an already complex process.
Like the previous measure, HB 260 was sent to the floor with a “do pass” recommendation.
House Chair Announces Interim Committee
At the end of today’s meeting, House Education Chair Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) told the members of his committee that leadership is in the process of crafting legislation that will result in the creation of an interim committee. The task of the interim committee will be to discuss many aspects of education law, including the bills being debated this session.
The legislature typically creates and funds several of these types of working groups each session. An interim committee allows lawmakers a more extended period of time to spend researching, talking with experts, listening to the public and carefully vetting ideas.
The interim committee approach, coupled with the work of the Governor’s task force on education reform offers a rare opportunity for IEA members and the public to more effectively engage in a discussion about what we want for our public schools and for the people we employ to teach our children.
Though the timeline and agenda for the interim committee has yet to be determined, the IEA has been discussing the concept with legislative leaders. Throughout these discussions, we have received assurances that the interim committee will take under consideration the concepts embodied in the legislation this year (whether the legislation includes a sunset or not) and much more.
While we would have preferred a different approach than the action that’s occurred thus far this legislative session, the acknowledgment that these issues warrant the development of an interim study committee is a positive sign and one that may not have occurred without the November election results.