Today was a good day for the classroom aides, janitors, bus drivers, and others who help Idaho schools run smoothly. Karen Echeverria of the Idaho Schools Boards Association asked Sen. John Goedde (R-Coeur d’Alene), chair of the Senate Education Committee, to pull S1297, the bill that would have put new limits on classified employees’ rights to file a grievance, with the expectation that ISBA and the Idaho Education Association will work over the summer to craft a compromise bill. Even before today’s request from ISBA, the IEA was in the process of preparing amendments for committee consideration; those ideas will now be added to the list of items for discussion when the parties meet later this year.
S1297 emerged Feb.7 in the education committee. The IEA immediately began a strong campaign against it because it could’ve cut short Education Support Professionals’ ability to appeal a grievance up to the district court level. On Feb. 15, IEA General Counsel Paul Stark told the panel 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 proposed in S1297, they would have needed to 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.
Marty Meyer of Coeur d’Alene was one of several ESP who testified that day, and he noted that in his 30-plus-year career as a school janitor, he only filed two grievances and they were rooted in concern for children’s safety. He noted how once, he’d been asked to monitor a cafeteria of 120 children, something he was not trained to do.
Stark told lawmakers 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.”