IEA Hotline—March 20, 2020
Legislature Adjourns Sine Die
Even as schools, public buildings, and businesses around the state were closing, the Idaho Legislature continued to meet this week, although with an increased sense of urgency. The Senate adjourned sine die yesterday. The House met this morning, then voted to adjourn by a narrow 32-28 margin, bringing an end to the 2020 legislative session after 75 days. The Hotline will have a complete recap of the session once the governor has signed or vetoed all legislation. In the meantime, here is a brief rundown on education-related activity from this session.
Veteran Teacher Pay Legislation Heads to Governor’s Desk
Legislation that would increase allocations from the state to local districts to increase compensation for veteran educators cleared both chambers and is awaiting the signature of Gov. Brad Little to become law. HB 523 was presented in committee by the governor’s office and was identified as one of his top legislative priorities.
Likewise, improving Idaho’s teacher retention rates and bolstering respect for the profession are significant points of emphasis for the IEA and its members. While not a panacea, this bill should provide local school districts, particularly rural districts, with the means to pay their experienced educators more competitively. HB 523 will increase allocations to districts for veteran teacher pay by $223 million over the next five years, including more than $30 million in 2020-21.
“This bill is a step in the right direction for our veteran educators and, by extension, our students,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “We look forward to working with other education stakeholders to build out a dynamic built on fidelity that ensures HB 523 will help address Idaho’s teacher retention issues.
Two other bills geared toward bringing local school boards and administrators into the shared accountability framework died on the floor when the House adjourned. SB 1279 would have provided more guidance on the evaluations administrators conduct of educators, and SB 1285 would have mandated training for local school board members within 180 days of their election.
Legislation that would sunset the Master Educator Premium program passed both chambers. No new applications would be taken after the 2019-2020 school year and the program would sunset completely July 1, 2024, should Gov. Little sign the bill.
IEA Members Help Fend Off Harmful Legislation
Several pieces of legislation that would have been problematic for educators and public schools were introduced during this session. Thanks in large part to the advocacy of IEA members, they were voted down or held in committees and will not become law in Idaho.
- Guns on campus failed to pass the Senate State Affairs Committee on a 5-4 vote. This legislation would have enabled school employees to carry guns on school grounds with very limited notification required. Law enforcement agencies joined education stakeholder groups in opposing this bill.
- Election limitation legislation was held in committee. This bill would have limited school bond and levy elections to just May and November, eliminating the crucial March and August elections windows. As we shared in a previous Hotline, school districts are heavily reliant on “supplemental levies” and this would have severely compromised their ability to pass both levies and the bonds that finance facility improvements.
- Other potential harmful legislation was abandoned early in the session, including a problematic funding formula bill, a one year limit on levies, and a bill that would have prevented districts from changing racist mascots.
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