It was another surreal day in the Idaho Legislature, as A-list Senate Republicans testified against Senate Bill 1184, the third rail of Supt. Tom Luna’s plan to overhaul education.
From Senate Majority Leader Sen. Bart Davis (R-Idaho Falls) to JFAC members Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) and Shawn Keough (R-Sandpoint) to longtime lawmaker and teacher Sen. Denton Darrington (R-Declo), members of the majority party spoke eloquently against the budget-busting, job-killing legislation.
But in the end, the Senate’s “silent majority” prevailed again, voting 20-15 to send the bill on to the House Education Committee. The legislation moves across the Statehouse despite the fact that key parts of it are opposed by the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, and the Idaho PTA. Once again, Idahoans’ voices were ignored in the rush to pass “reform,” no matter what it looks like and no matter how many people object.
Please thank the 15 Senators who voted no: Sens. Andreason (R-Boise), Bilyeu (D-Pocatello), Bock (D-Boise), Broadsword (R-Sagle), Cameron, Corder (R-Mountain Home), Darrington, Davis, Keough, LeFavour (D-Boise), Malepeai (McWilliam) (D-Pocatello), Schmidt (D-Moscow), Stegner (R-Lewiston), Stennett (D-Ketchum), and Werk (D-Boise).
A highlight of the debate was Sen. Cameron’s list of the nine reasons he opposed the bill. In brief, they were:
1) It's not needed and it won't solve Idaho’s fiscal crisis.
2) Every single stakeholder group is opposed to it.
3) The bill lacks flexibility for districts.
4) It unduly binds future Legislatures and JFACs on the most important budget in the state.
5) It would force the consolidation of least-effective schools. (He said this is not part of S1184 but it is part of the Luna plan.)
6) It would mandate multiyear cuts to salary-based apportionment.
7) The bill demands transparency on the local level but not at the state level. It gives too much power to the state superintendent.
8) Students can enroll in any online course without district oversight.
9) There are three new entitlements in #S1184: laptops, dual credits, and online classes. They may be good ideas, but they weren't debated last election and won't curb costs.
Sen. Joyce Broadsword, reading an email from a constituent who has taught in online schools and traditional settings, noted that educator's opinion that Senate Bill 1184 would advance a “third-rate” online curriculum that can't compare with the rigor of traditional classes.
Several lawmakers including Sen. Elliot Werk and Sen. Nicole LeFavour questioned the way S1184's technology mandates will allow virtual schools to get double the taxpayer dollars for technology, since they already get transportation dollars for their students.
Despite these and many other strong bipartisan arguments against the bill, it now goes to the House Education Committee, which will probably hear it early next week. Take time this weekend to contact your House members to ask them to vote NO on Senate Bill 1184.