UPDATE: The print hearing for the bills has been delayed to Thursday, February 3, because neither bill contains the Statement of Purpose required for all proposed legislation.
At 91 and 45 pages long, Superintendent Tom Luna’s bills have a lot to digest – and plenty for everyone to dislike. After several days of study, here are some of the worst aspects we’ve found in the legislation.
The “Public School Modernization & Reform” legislation would further cut funding for Idaho’s classrooms, which are already suffering from nearly $200 million in cuts over the past two years. As we expected, its key points include increasing class sizes to buy a laptop computer for every 9th grader; eliminating nearly 1,000 educator positions; and requiring students to earn six high school credits via online courses. (This was a change from Luna’s original aim of requiring eight credits, two each year of high school.)
The far-reaching, cynically titled “Labor Relations & Employee Entitlements” legislation would gut fair employment safeguards for teachers and other school employees across Idaho. If passed, it would:
· Prohibit school districts from providing proven teachers with protections against arbitrary discipline and firing;
· Eliminate the requirement that districts bargain in “good faith” with their employees;
· Forbid negotiations regarding class size and other keys to the best possible student learning conditions;
· Allow school districts to unilaterally reduce school employee pay and benefits;
· Mandate that all locally bargained agreements expire at the end of the year;
· Forbid districts from considering seniority in lay-off decisions;
· Remove the funding safety net for school districts. Teachers, administrators, and support personnel could be laid off well into the school year;
· Diminish local control;
· and weaken Idaho’s ability to attract and retain high-quality teachers.
Yes, it’s that bad, and it’s easier to get the public riled up about laptops and online classes than contract issues. But parents understand the connections between class sizes and a good school experience for their children. They also know that when teachers have good working conditions and input into their jobs, they are better able to focus on teaching and helping students. It’s up to all of us – educators, parents, administrators, and board members – to help lawmakers realize that stability, cooperation, and a sense of ownership are essential ingredients for successful schools. The Luna plan would lessen them all.
Here’s a recap of key dates and upcoming community meetings. (See a full list of community events here.)
Wednesday, February 2 – The Senate Education Committee will hold the print hearing for Luna’s legislation. This is a formality; it simply means the committee will agree to consider the bills.
Monday, February 7 – The Senate Education Committee will open four days of testimony on the bills. Mr. Luna will present the bills that day and take questions, and the major stakeholders will present their testimony.
Tuesday, February 8 – Thursday, February 10- Public testimony will be taken on the Luna bills. The committee starts at 3 p.m. each day. As of now, the committee is expected to debate and vote on the bills on February 10.
Community events in the next 48 hours include:
Wednesday, February 2 – Community forum at Sandcreek Middle School cafeteria, 2955 Owen St., Ammon. 4 p.m. Sponsored by the Bonneville Education Association.
Wednesday, February 2 – Community forum co-sponsored by the Moscow School District and Moscow Education Association, 4 p.m. at the Moscow Junior High Multipurpose Room, 1410 E. D St.
Wednesday, February 2 – Caldwell community forum, 4:30 p.m. at the Caldwell Public Library, 1010 Dearborn St. Sponsored by the Caldwell Education Association.
Wednesday, February 2 – Community forum, 7 p.m., Borah High School, 6001 Cassia St., Boise. Sponsored by Boise School District parent-teacher organizations.
Wednesday, February 2 – Community forum sponsored by the Rexburg and Fremont Education Associations, 7:30 p.m. in the Madison High School Auditorium, 134 Madison Ave., Rexburg.
Thursday, February 3 – Community forum at 3:30 p.m. in the Filer Elementary School Library, 700 Stevens Ave. Sponsored by the Filer Education Association.
Thursday, February 3 – Community forum at 7 p.m. in the Vallivue Middle School Auditorium, 16412 S. 10th Ave., Caldwell. Sponsored by the Vallivue Education Association.