Decades from now, when historians review the actions of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Gov. Butch Otter, and the 2011 Idaho Legislature, they’ll have to wonder what these office holders were thinking when they passed legislation that killed jobs just as economic recovery picked up; stripped educators’ abilities to have a voice in their work; mandated bonus pay at the expense of base salaries; and traded teachers for technology. They’ll wonder how this happened despite overwhelming statewide public opposition.
They might think it was all an elaborate joke, given that the “third pillar” of the plan passed on April 1, 2011. But those of us who have lived through the past three months know that the joke is on Idaho’s children, parents, and educators. No one is laughing.
Senate Bill 1184 cleared the House today, receiving 44 yes votes to 26 “nays.” It passed despite sustained public outcry and compelling testimony from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls) said he could not support the bill because he had not received a single message in support of it from district superintendents, principals, school board members, teachers, or students. “You have to have some support from the people you expect to carry out the changes,” he said. He added that the computer revolution is happening without this legislation and we all have computers “coming out our ears … The notion that more computers and fewer teachers will lead to a superior kind of learning. If we accept that notion we’re asking for trouble. Because it pushes the notion that teaching is a science and not an art.” He also pointed out how the bill could mean 15 percent fewer teachers in the state.
Rep. Brian Cronin (D-Boise) said that the legislation “does replace teachers with technology. No amount of rhetorical tap dancing can change that. It is an indisputable fact that we are diminishing our investment in teachers and increasing our investment in computers. And amidst all the other technical problems, unanswered questions, and dubious claims in this bill, that is the one that troubles me most.”(Read Rep. Cronin’s entire testimony here.)
After several hours, the House abruptly voted to close off debate even though several lawmakers were waiting to have their say. The motion to close debate barely attained the two-thirds majority necessary. “I don't think it changed the outcome,” Minority Leader Rep. John Rusche (D-Lewiston) told Eye on Boise, “but I think it was bad form. Cutting people off from having their voice is pretty typical for the Republican Legislature this year.”
In a statement following the bill’s passage, Gov. Butch Otter said “this legislation underwent extraordinarily thorough public and legislative vetting.” Maybe so, but do people feel heard?
Please thank the 26 lawmakers – 13 Democrats and 13 Republicans – who stood with the people of Idaho to oppose this bill:
Reps. Andrus (R-Lava Hot Springs), Bateman (R-Idaho Falls), Bell (R-Jerome), Bolz (R-Caldwell) , Buckner-Webb (D-Boise), Burgoyne (D-Boise), Chew (D-Boise), Cronin (D-Boise), Ellsworth (R-Boise), Eskridge (R-Dover), Higgins (D-Garden City), Jaquet (D-Ketchum), Killen (D-Boise), King (D-Boise), Lacey (D-Pocatello), Loertscher (R-Iona), Luker (R-Boise), McGeachin (R-Idaho Falls), Moyle (R-Star), Nesset (R-Lewiston), Pence (D-Gooding), Ringo (D-Moscow), Rusche (D-Lewiston), Smith(30) (D-Pocatello), Smith(24) (R-Twin Falls), and Trail (R-Moscow).
The legislation now goes to Gov. Otter, who is expected to sign it as he did the previous two Luna laws. He has not listened to overwhelming public opposition to the Luna plan up until now, so it’s unlikely he will start. However, it’s still important to let him know that you object to Senate Bill 1184 becoming law.