Public to Lawmakers: Respect the Voters; Process Matters
This morning, members of the House and Senate Education Committees held a joint meeting to listen to the public. By the end of the two-and-one-half-hour meeting, more than 75 Idahoans had shared their comments. Here are the comments made by IEA President, Penni Cyr:
Chairman Goedde, Chairman DeMordaunt, and members of the Senate and House Education Committee, I’m Penni Cyr, a teacher of 28 years on leave from the Moscow School District, serving as President of the IEA.
Thank you for providing this forum to speak about education issues. I am speaking on behalf of the members of the IEA who are in their classrooms today teaching their students. Our members care deeply about the decisions you make in this building. They also care deeply about the students they teach and the work they do in their classrooms.
We did not urge our members to leave their classrooms to come speak today. Instead, we asked the Chairmen to hold an evening meeting at a later date. We hope this will allow time for educators to participate. We know all educators won’t be able to come, but those living near our Capitol would have an opportunity to speak with you. In the meantime, our members will continue to communicate with you through email, by phone, and in person when you’re home for weekend visits.
While there are many issues important to IEA members, time does not permit me to discuss them all. Today I will focus my comments on the recent introduction of legislation that brings back most of the concepts found in Proposition 1 that voters defeated in November.
The Idaho School Boards Association has a right to bring forward issues that are important to its members. But, with all due respect, having the executive director of the ISBA stand before your committees and claim that her members understand what bothered my members about the law and further assure you that their bills do not address any of those topics is insulting.
Football coach Bear Bryant said, “When you make a mistake, admit it; learn from it and don’t repeat it.” Legislators could take a card from his playbook.
Less than 90 days ago, Idaho voters overwhelmingly rejected each of the three propositions. None of us know with certainty why each of the 371,224 Idaho voters rejected Proposition 1, but from the day SB 1108 was introduced there was a public outcry regarding the process used to develop it.
I urge you; go back and review the notes from those days of public hearings. Re-read the hundreds of emails you and your colleagues received. Read the many letters to the editors printed during that period. Over and over and over again, the voters told you they did not like the process.
Yet, since the November election that very same process has been used to develop and introduce the seven bills before your committees today. Like Proposition 1, the bills were written without the involvement of the stakeholders. In fact, repeated attempts from my organization to have substantive conversations about these issues before they came before this body have been denied and rebuffed at virtually every turn.
Keeping stakeholders—parents and educators—in the dark until these bills were written and inviting us in after the fact to review the bills is less than sincere and non-productive. It is also demeaning and disingenuous to those who care deeply about our profession.
On behalf of my members, I’m asking you to take a step back and start over. When we’ve used a collaborative process it works; for example, we were successful in the drafting of the Financial Emergency law a few years ago. In the late 1990’s, stakeholders worked collaboratively to develop the New Teacher Support law that, when funded, provided a number of supports for those newest to our profession.
There are many other issues I’d like to discuss with you today: FY 13 budget, Common Core Standards, IEA’s Recommendations, and so on. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time.
I hope, as we go forward, we can find ways to work together to ensure Idaho’s children have access to the best schools we can provide, staffed by highly skilled and respected educators.
Lanza to Legislators: Set the Bills Aside
The Co-Founder of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, Mike Lanza, also spoke at today’s “listening session.” Here are his comments:
Mr. Chairmen and committee members,
My name is Mike Lanza. I am a Boise parent and co-founder of the group Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, and I chaired the Vote No campaign. I am now sitting on the governor’s education task force with the two of you.
As you both know, that task force is comprised of many very smart and accomplished educators and others. In just two meetings so far, we have heard good ideas that could truly bring improvements to Idaho’s public schools.
I know you would agree that by bringing together many knowledgeable stakeholders in education, this task force has a great opportunity and it demonstrates respect for the mandate we heard from voters when they repealed the Luna laws last November.
Voters objected most vehemently to the process followed in writing and passing those laws, because educators and other stakeholders were not involved.
I come today to urge these committees and this Legislature to heed Gov. Otter’s request when he formed that task force. The Governor urged this Legislature to not take actions that would affect public schools in this session, and to instead give this task force time to do its work.
Now we hear that there have been bills introduced by the Idaho School Boards Association that would resurrect many of the elements of the law that 57% of Idahoans rejected through Proposition 1.
Idaho does not need more of the same. We need reforms that are based on data showing us what actually improves student achievement.
Laws that merely demoralize teachers will not get us where we need to be.
Your committees should set those bills aside until the task force has completed its work—a process that, you will agree, must include public meetings around the state and other means for the public to share their thoughts and ideas.
We all agree that the loudest message from voters last November was that they objected to the process followed in passing the Luna laws. The public was ignored then, including the thousands who testified against those laws before these committees and wrote to legislators urging the rejection of those laws.
I am already hearing from many in the public who are skeptical about the prospects of this task force setting aside political agendas and achieving real progress for our schools.
I tell them that I believe we actually have a great opportunity here.
But we have to recognize that if this Legislature fails to listen to the public—if this Legislature again passes laws that voters have already told us they do not support—you will jeopardize the public faith that this new process we have only just begun is legitimate and driven not by political agendas, but only by a genuine interest in figuring out what’s best for our students and ultimately our economy.
Let’s not turn down the same road that has proven so disastrous already.
Please do the right thing. Respect the will of Idaho voters and refrain from passing laws in this session that will impact our schools.
Sandwich Bill to Be Introduced Next Week
Rep. Phylis King (D-Boise) will introduce legislation Tuesday morning in the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee that would permit, but not require, employees who have worked at least 7 ½ hours a 30 minute unpaid break for a meal. The IEA supports this proposal.
While many employers do provide meal breaks, it is not required and some employees are made to work long shifts with no break. Many people mistakenly believe that federal law requires coffee and meal breaks. This is not the case. Federal law only requires minimum and overtime wages. It does not required coffee breaks, and it does not require meal breaks.
The need for workers to have a break from the duties has been exhaustively studied and documented. It is beyond question that public safety and worker health suffer when workers are not provided sufficient opportunities to rest, eat, and use the bathroom.
You can email members of the committee (http://legislature.idaho.gov/about/contactbycommittee.cfm). Simply put “Support Meal Breaks” in the subject line and ask them to support Idaho workers by giving them a meal break. This will only take a few minutes of your time. It’s so simple; you can even eat a sandwich while you do it!