Yesterday, following strong testimony against Senate Bill 1184 from the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators, we hoped that maybe lawmakers might slow down efforts to railroad the final Luna legislation through the Legislature. But that will not be the case; the bill will be heard by the full Senate on Thursday.
From Eye on Boise:
The Senate has announced that it'll take up SB 1184 tomorrow afternoon, which will require a two-thirds vote to suspend rules, as the bill will only have been on second reading that morning. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said he asked the indulgence of senators to make that move “from a time-management point of view.” He said, “By picking that up earlier, it will allow the joint committee to go back to work and set the education bill for budgets. If we wait on 1184 until next week, that means we lose the weekend time plus Thursday and Friday in getting that legislation ready, and you can tack every one of those days onto the length of the session.”
Davis said Monday that the Senate would hold afternoon sessions this week in an effort to wrap up lawmakers’ business by April 1. Davis also is on record as opposing SB 1184, which passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday on a 6-3 vote. He told reporters last week that while he would introduce the bill, he will not support it. “The bill takes more money from salary-based apportionment for the purpose of buying technology. For me, that’s a bridge too far,” he said.
Davis is not the only prominent Republican opposing the bill. Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert), co-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, told Ben Botkin of The Times-News that the funding mechanism of the Luna legislation is “a shell game.” From Botkin’s blog post at Capitol Confidential:
Cameron's point is this: With the remaining dollars, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee could craft a budget bill that pays for the technology, making Luna's bill unnecessary.
Of course, the other side of that is Luna's bill also puts a plan in place for technology upgrades in subsequent years as well, including laptops for high school students.
The reworked education plan and the third bill has come under fire for requiring the technology and a teacher pay-for-performance plan, but with much of the money coming from the existing salary-based apportionment.
Legislative Democrats weighed in today, too, with a news release criticizing efforts to push through a bad bill:
“The people of Idaho have spoken loudly and clearly on the worst elements of the Luna plan—they don‘t want any part of cutting teachers and redirecting scarce dollars into computer purchases,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche (D-Lewiston) ―The Superintendent and the bill sponsors claim they‘ve changed the bills, but they simply applied lipstick to a pig. S1184 just passes the buck, with budget shortfalls now falling squarely on the shoulders of local districts. Districts will have little choice but to cut teachers in order to finance the Luna laptop program.”
But none of this opposition seems to matter. As the Idaho Statesman editorialized today:
Late last week, Idaho Schools Boards Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria warned that school districts could face “consequences” for speaking out against this bill. The warning couldn’t be much more clear. Get out of the way. Supporters want to pass something they can call reform, regardless of the problems that they might pass along.
All the while, the self-styled reformers around the Statehouse have little political energy to confront their obligations to fund public education. They assumed this role to an even greater degree in 2006, when they approved then-Gov. Jim Risch’s plan to increase the sales tax and cut property taxes for schools. … Now, the school districts stand to absorb a big share of a $92 million shortfall in 2011-12 — while struggling to make Luna’s overhaul work. This is what happens when politics comes first.