Friday saw the debut of the latest and presumably last version of what was once the main piece of Superintendent Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” legislation. The Senate State Affairs Committee made short work of printing Sen. John Goedde’s RS on “public school modernization and reform” in an attempt to revive the legislation that’s been stalled in the Senate for three weeks.
Although the bill’s Statement of Purpose uses the same language found in Luna’s previous bills about educating “more students at a higher level with limited resources,” the legislation now known as Senate Bill1184 delays the technology mandates from the earlier versions and makes no explicit mention of increasing the funding divisor, increasing class sizes, or eliminating 770 teaching jobs.
Instead, Luna and the Legislature apparently intend to force local school districts to make the tough decisions over whether they’ll boost class sizes, cut teacher pay, lay off staff, or all of the above. The plan’s pay-for-performance and technology mandates will unnecessarily complicate these decisions.
A first reading of the bill shows that it:
“Creates a task force to study and develop plans for implementation of online courses, one-to-one mobile computing devices, and other advanced technology in the classroom.”
Provides teachers with mobile computing devices in the 2012-2013 school year and students beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, with a third of high school students receiving the devices each year until they all have them by 2015-2016.
Allows districts flexibility in the “Use It or Lose It” portion of salary-based apportionment up to 6 percent in FY 2012, 8 percent in FY 2013, and 10 percent in FY 2014.By allowing districts to use funding that is otherwise intended to be spent on hiring teachers in other ways, this provision will most certainly result in fewer teachers and increased class sizes.
Returns the minimum teacher salary to $30,000 and begins restoring the salary grid.
Requires that each school district post its budget and master agreement online. The state Department of Education will also post a fiscal report card for each school district.
Requires the State Board of Education to create digital citizenship standards and consider adding online course requirements for the class of 2016.
“Creates a funding formula that provides the necessary resources for the pay-for-performance plan, from the overall budget determined by the Legislature.”
The bill’s estimated cost is $5.5 million for FY 2012, supposedly paid for in its first year via $9.4 million in savings from two provisions in Senate Bill 1108: the elimination of the Early Retirement Incentive Program and the 99 percent funding floor (which may trigger fall layoffs due to enrollment declines). The fiscal impact statement notes the bill would annually save between $21 and $35 million in the following five years.
Where are these savings going to come from? They’re certainly not going to flow from giving every Idaho teacher and student mobile computing devices nor from “funding for instructional technology in Idaho’s classrooms as well as the necessary professional development for teachers.”
As its earlier versions did, the new Luna bill still seems to mean that larger class sizes, educator layoffs, pay cuts, or some combination of all of these are in Idaho’s near future. Hey, but at least everyone will have a laptop.