The 2011 Idaho Legislature convened on January 10 and adjourned 88 days later on April 7. The predominant education issue throughout the session was the legislation introduced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. It made headlines the first day of the session and continued to be debated and decided right up to the final day of the session.
This is an overview of education-related legislation and our perspective on the implications of the decisions made by the 2011 Idaho Legislature. If you’d like to stay informed on education news and views year-round, subscribe to our free weekly digest, EDlines.
THE LUNA BILLS
S 1108 amends teacher contract law and the professional negotiations law. This bill effectively:
· Rolls back the collective bargaining rights of Idaho teachers
· Prohibits professional negotiations regarding such issues as class sizes, lesson planning, and student health and safety
· Requires that school districts advertise on behalf of professional liability insurance providers
· Ends the practice of issuing renewable contracts to teachers
· Allows trustees to reduce salaries and change teacher working conditions without negotiations or due process
· Eliminates the fact-finding process in professional negotiations
· Allows school districts to fire proven teachers without legitimate reasons or a fair hearing
· Takes away funding safeguards for school districts experiencing unexpected enrollment declines
S 1110 establishes a teacher pay for performance system that:
· Bases teacher performance pay on student test scores
· Establishes a complicated, vague and unproven pay scheme
· Requires local school districts to spend $89 million over the law's first two years on bonuses without providing a source of state funding
S 1184 mandates a process and timeline to ensure 1-to-1 student/computer ratios and online courses and funds these new requirements by reducing salary-based apportionment and changes to the funding formula regarding teaching positions. The bill:
· Reduces state funding to local school districts by $156 million over the next six years
· Requires individual “mobile computing devices” for high school students
· Authorizes school districts to reduce the teaching staff by up to 25 percent
· Mandates online courses for high school graduation
· Forces local school boards to offset funding cuts and pay for laptop computers by:
o Increasing class sizes,
o Cutting pay for teachers and other school employees,
o Shortening the school year,
o Eliminating extra-curricular activities and enrichment programs, and/or
o Raising local property taxes
THE TRAILER BILLS
H 315 amends S 1108 to reinstate a portion of the 99 percent protection for school districts for FY 2012 before completely eliminating it in FY 2013. Additionally, the bill does away with the section of SB 1108 that allows school districts to terminate employees after October 1 and provides terminated employees with severance pay. Update April 22, 2011: The governor let this bill become law without his signature.
H 335 amends S1108 to make minor improvements. Among other items, it requires school board trustees to use their last good faith offer made during negotiations when they impose a settlement. It also declares an emergency for all the sections of S1108, requiring them to be effective upon the governor’s signature.
H 336 amends S 1110 to make minor improvements, by adding language allowing local school district to consider additional criteria in setting factors used for leadership and hard to fill bonuses. It also declares an emergency for all the sections of S1108, requiring all sections of the pay for performance law to be effective upon the governor’s signature.
H 345 amends S 1184 to increase the “use it or lose it” requirement for state instructional staff funding, which translates to more teaching jobs being lost. It also declares an emergency for all the sections of S1184, making them effective upon the governor’s signature.
S 1206 Historically, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) writes five separate public school appropriations bills (Division of Administrators, Division of Teachers, Division of Operations, Division of Children’s Programs, and Division of Facilities). This year, for the second year in a row, lawmakers consolidated the FY 12 school funding bill into one piece of legislation.
The total appropriation for FY 2012 is $1,561,069,300, representing a loss of $47 million from last year’s $1,608,149,000. The $1.223 billion in state general funds appropriated in SB 1206 represents a $9.3 million dollar increase over last year; however dedicated funds and federal funds were decreased substantially. This means public education funding has been reduced by roughly $244 million in the last three years. The combination of state, federal, and dedicated funds represents an overall 2.9 percent decline over the previous year’s allocation.
OTHER EDUCATION RELATED BILLS
This was a very lively session for education issues. Most of the legislation followed the spirit of the Luna bills by attempting to whittle away at teacher rights in the name of education reform.
Here’s a list of some of the education-related bills that the IEA followed this session:
H 104 The IEA opposed this piece of legislation that would prohibit school boards from compensating employees for labor union activities. It would have also made it difficult for local associations to receive release time for presidents and delegates to DA. (FAILED)
H 201 This bill limits the authority of the Professional Standards Commission and completely rewrites district hiring practices. The IEA vigorously opposed this measure that:
o Mandates that every school district (and other Idaho employers) follow certain extremely onerous and expensive hiring procedures.
o Requires applicants to release confidential information from prior employment.
o Conflicts with current Idaho teacher personnel file law, which, with very limited exception, makes the contents of personnel files confidential unless a teacher consents to disclosure.
o Duplicates existing statutory protections for employers who provide job references in good faith.
o Requires school district job applicants to provide a release to allow prior employers to provide , and requires the applicant’s prior employers to provide, job performance information without limitation as to time or type of job.
o Mandates that school district employers provide a substantive job reference concerning a school district job applicant upon request, even though locally-adopted school district policy might – for good and sufficient reasons and because of liability concerns – require the school district to only disclose that the employee previously worked for the school district in a certain position for a certain period of time.(LAW)
H 267 This legislation, opposed by the IEA, would have required all organizations participating in PERSI to comply with the Idaho Public Records Act. (FAILED)
H 332 The IEA opposed this piece of legislation that would have allowed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to nominate candidates to serve on the Professional Standards Commission. This attempt to increase the Superintendents control over this Commission was printed but never received a committee hearing. (FAILED)
S1023 The IEA supported this piece of legislation that would have better defined what a charter school “founder” is by requiring that a “founder” must be designated within 180 days of the creation of a new charter school. (FAILED)
S1105 The IEA supported this piece of legislation that would have enhanced the bullying statutes currently in law by mandating a misdemeanor penalty for a third offense. (FAILED)
IEA SPONSORED BILLS
H 340 The 2010 DA passed NBI 8 requiring the IEA to seek legislation to extend teacher certification by one year if the legislature fails to fund the education multiplier. The IEA crafted legislation and identified a legislative sponsor. Near the end of the session, the bill was printed and sent to the floor of the House. It passed the House on a 69-1 vote, but the Senate failed to act on the bill before adjourning. (FAILED)
With the emergence of an ever-more conservative Senate, it was expected that the 2011 session would be very difficult for public employees, especially educators. It was apparent early on in the session that Idaho legislators would ride the national wave of attacks to public employees and public employee unions and use the state’s financial emergency to make major policy changes and institute ill-conceived “education reforms.”
The legislature’s continued unwillingness to consider any fee or tax increases created serious funding challenges again this session. While this year’s cuts to education weren’t as severe as those implemented last year, the policy changes brought about by the Luna bills will negatively impact public schools and school employees. The cumulative effect of three years of budget cuts – coupled with the mandates imposes by the new Luna laws – mean continued challenges ahead for Idaho’s public schools.
As always, IEA members and our allies must remain committed, active, and informed. That is the only way we can begin to turn back the harmful Luna laws and ensure our mission of providing a quality education for every Idaho child.