A committee of parents and representatives of the Idaho Education Association today took initial steps toward a campaign to repeal Senate Bills 1108 and 1110, two recently enacted pieces of Superintendent Tom Luna's controversial education package.
“We're in the exploratory phase, and no final decisions have been made. But we filed initial paperwork with the Secretary of State in order to start the process and preserve our options to refer these bad laws for a citizens' veto,” said Sherri Wood, President of the Idaho Education Association. “In the coming weeks, educators plan to talk with and listen to parents, business people, community leaders and other concerned Idahoans before deciding whether to proceed with a signature drive and referendum campaign.”
Senate Bill 1108 sharply rolls back collective bargaining rights for teachers in negotiating agreements with local school boards. “It's been more than twenty years since any of Idaho's 113 school districts has had a teacher strike,” Wood pointed out. “Teachers and school boards have done a good job of negotiating fair agreements even with tight budgets. In recent years teachers and other school employees have agreed to pay cuts and furlough days in good-faith efforts to preserve programs for students.”
Senate Bill 1110 establishes a teacher performance pay system. So far, no funding source has been secured for the plan, which the State Department of Education estimates will cost $38 million in its first year and $50 million in subsequent years.
“The two bills that the Governor signed were advertised as legislation to improve the education of our students. But these bills put our classrooms at risk,” said Maria Greeley, a parent from Boise. Greeley signed the referendum petitions, and she has been a leader in the Idaho Parents and Teachers Together coalition opposed to the Luna proposals. “As parents, we share the common goal of building strong classrooms by retaining and drawing great teachers to Idaho. We continue to work in partnership with the teachers, administrators and union representatives and believe there are better compromises and solutions to maintain the integrity of our classrooms.”
For referenda on the measures to appear on the 2012 general election ballot, petitions with signatures of 47,432 Idaho voters must be submitted no more than 60 days following the end of the legislative session. A final decision on whether to proceed with referendum campaigns is expected by mid-April, according to Wood.