Last year, the Idaho Legislature passed three hastily written education reform laws that take away teachers’ voices, base bonuses on standardized test scores, and start the privatization of public education. Idahoans will have a chance to overturn the laws this November via Propositions 1, 2, and 3.
With the upcoming election as a backdrop, the 2012 Idaho Legislature has considered no fewer than 16 bills that attempt to clarify or clean up the three original reform bills. The contortions continued today as Rep. Bob Nonini (R-Coeur d’Alene) pulled House Bill 656 and replaced it with House Bill 698, last-minute legislation that continues to fund bonuses before base salaries and technology before manageable class sizes.
“This is just the latest example of bureaucrats playing politics with our children and with our state’s economic future,” said Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr. “Most lawmakers didn’t listen last year, and all this session, they’ve been attempting to fix their bad bills.”
Although H698 would, as long as funds allow, end 2011’s mandated salary shifts and offer faster growth in teacher minimum salaries, this passage from the bill’s statement of purpose makes its priorities plain: “Any increased funds appropriated for Public Schools in FY14 will first be used to pay for growth and the statutory cost of Pay for Performance, Public School Technology, the next implementation phase for 1-1 mobile computing devices in high schools” and dual credit programs “prior to funding increases for any other items within the Public Schools budget” like transportation, textbooks, and discretionary funds.
In other words, last year’s faulty laws still come first. To put it another way, it’s as if Idaho lawmakers want to eat dessert first and their meat and vegetables second, assuming they still have room after gorging on gimmicks and gadgets.
“Idaho voters will have the final say on these faulty bills in November,” Cyr added. “By voting No on Propositions 1, 2, and 3, we can push the reset button on education policy and have a real conversation about the sort of policies that will truly put students first.”