Even amid overwhelming public opposition to Superintendent Tom Luna’s plan to overhaul education, the Senate Education Committee today passed all three of Luna’s bills on to the full Senate.
The votes on the bills were as follows:
Senate Bill 1108 (the teachers union-busting bill) passed 6-3. AYES: Goedde, Mortimer, Pearce, Fulcher, Winder, Toryanski. NAYS: Andreason, Malepeai, LeFavour.
Senate Bill 1110 (pay for performance) passed 6-3. AYES: Goedde, Mortimer, Pearce, Fulcher, Winder, Toryanski. NAYS: Andreason, Malepeai, LeFavour.
Senate Bill 1113 (larger class sizes, trading teachers for technology) passed 5-4: AYES: Goedde, Mortimer, Pearce, Fulcher, Winder. NAYS: Andreason, Toryanski, Malepeai, LeFavour.
Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood was among the stakeholder group representatives who testified before the debate and votes. “From the beginning, the Luna plan’s fatal flaw has been the lack of stakeholder involvement,” she said. “In America, we have government of the people, by the people, and for the people. During the debate of the past few weeks, you’ve seen Idahoans take this concept very seriously. You’ve heard from thousands of Idahoans via emails, calls and letters to editors, and you heard from a few hundred of them in person last week – yet the bills before you today are little changed from the legislation that Idahoans overwhelmingly oppose. Many Idahoans simply don’t feel they’ve been heard.” (Read Sherri’s full comments here.)
As debate began on the bills, Sen. Edgar Malepeai (D-Pocatello) moved that all three pieces of legislation be held in committee. He criticized the lack of stakeholder work on the bills, the many unanswered questions that have been raised, and Luna’s “vertical management style” in dictating his proposals without input from the people who work in Idaho’s schools. Sen. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise) seconded the motion, but it died on a party-line vote.
But that was the last partisan vote of the afternoon. Sen. John Andreason (D-Boise) sided with Malepeai and LeFavour in voting against the pay-for-performance and teacher-bashing bills. Noting that he represents the two largest school districts in the state (Boise and Meridian) and that 90 percent of 1,400 emails he’s received oppose the Luna plan, Andreason pleaded twice for more time – even just a few days, he said – to bring the parties together to discuss the proposals.
Sen. Mitch Toryanski (R-Boise) joined Andreason, Malepeai, and LeFavour in opposing Senate Bill 1113. Toryanski said he applauds the idea of budget sustainability that Luna claims for the bills, but that public opinion in his Southeast Boise district overwhelmingly opposes the plan, especially its promise of larger class sizes and technology mandates. “Leaders must lead, but once in a while a leader has to glance over his shoulder, and make sure the people he's leading are behind him,” he said.
Senate Bill 1108 was debated last and brought the most somber remarks from those who opposed it. LeFavour said the bill saddens and troubles her with its “overdoing of the harsh treatment of people who teach our kids.” She also said the bill will likely open a Pandora’s Box of political problems if it ends just cause protections against unfair teacher firings. Malepeai added, “This bill has nothing to do with student achievement, but it certainly hits at the spirit and heart of teachers.” In fact, after the bill passed a few minutes later, many teachers who’d come for the meeting had tears in their eyes.
The bills now go to the full Senate, where they’ll be heard and debated sometime next week. Please take a moment now to thank the senators who supported teachers and children in today’s votes and urge them to continue their support as the bills move on to the full Senate.
Thanks also go to Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Z. Russell for her thorough live coverage of today’s meeting at the Eye on Boise blog. Read her posts here.