Over the past few days, we’ve been looking at how Tom Luna’s “Labor Relations & Employee Entitlements” bill (SB 1068) aims to gut current contract law for Idaho teachers. Today, we look at the remaining elements of that bill and the major components of his “Public School Modernization” (SB 1069) legislation.
As we pointed out in an earlier message, the collective bargaining process that has been in place and worked extremely successfully will be nearly obliterated under the Luna plan. Strict state timelinesand top-down control could completely change the face of bargaining across the state.
The scope of bargaining would be limited to salaries and benefits; a district could bargain reductions on both without declaring a financial emergency. The process would change as well.
Current Idaho Code provides for mediation and fact finding, in those rare instances when the two parties are unable to reach a settlement. Under the Luna plan, fact finding ceases to exist, and mediation can only be used if both parties agree. If the parties cannot come to agreement before June 10, then the board is required to impose the compensation package “it deems appropriate.”
In the end, if Luna’s plan were to pass, “bargaining” could easily cease to exist. Instead, the process would devolve into a series of sessions where the local school board sits and repeatedly says, “no,” knowing full well that on June 11, they’ll just impose whatever they want.
EARLY RETIREMENT INCENTIVE PROGRAM
Under Luna’s plan, this program, designed to reduce overall state costs by allowing eligible teachers to retire early, would be repealed.
In a silly jab aimed at the IEA and our membership benefit of $1+ million in liability insurance coverage, Luna’s plan would require school districts to provide teachers with information about liability insurance and encourage any employee who interacts with students to carry such insurance.
Principals would essentially be able to refuse to accept any currently employed teacher from being transferred to their school. Additionally, the school board could not issue a contract to an individual until or unless the building principal first permits the individual to teach at the school s/he oversees.
SB 1069: SCHOOL MODERNIZATION AND REFORM
Luna’s bill designed to revamp education delivery consists of a handful of changes, all premised on two assertions. First, Idaho schools are not doing enough to educate our children, causing them to fall further behind their peers around the globe. Second, we must learn to do more with less, since Idaho taxpayers are not willing to increase their taxes to pay for schools.
In order to pay for his ideas, the superintendent has identified several ways to generate money within the current funding system. In SB 1068, he removes the 99 percent protection (see yesterday’s Hotline message for how that works). In SB 1069, he outlines a five-year plan to change the mechanisms currently in Idaho Code that are used to determine the amount of funding each school district receives. He also divides the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding that flows to districts. And though it does not raise additional revenue, he also gives districts additional flexibility in how they spend their salary-based apportionment for teachers (commonly referred to as Use It or Lose It). Under his plan, 15 percent – instead of 5 percent – could be used to contract out services.
These changes will result in more overcrowded classes and fewer teachers. Mr. Luna claims that the student-teacher ratio wouldincrease from 18.2 to 19.8 under his plan, but several Idaho districts have done analyses of the Luna proposals showing that class sizes – already far higher than that – would grow by three to five students. And although Mr. Luna says class sizes will not grow before Grade 4, an Idaho Education Association analysis shows that is not true for small districts (those with fewer than 168 students in grades 1-3).
Over several years, he’ll “unfreeze” the salary grid that has been frozen for the past few years. In 2011, one year of experience and one year of education movement is funded. In 2012, an additional year of experience and an additional year of education movement are funded. In 2013, the final year of experience and education is funded, finally returning us to the 2008-2009 level. The Luna plan also increases the minimum teacher salary back to $30,000 in FY 12.
PAY FOR PERFORMANCE
In addition to returning teacher salaries nearly to their pre-2008 levels, Luna’s plan also lays out a Pay for Performance plan that would:
- Pay bonuses to teachers who agree to work in hard-to-fill positions. The state board of education will identify the hard-to-fill positions every two years. Local school districts will select their hard-to-fill positions from that list, or they may also apply for a waiver from the state board if there are other local district positions that are difficult to fill. All teachers who are hired, or currently teach in those areas the local school district has identified as hard to fill, will be eligible for this bonus.
- Pay bonuses for teachers who provide leadership by carrying out duties above and beyond their normal, contracted assignment. The Luna bill details 16 areas for which individual teachers can earn leadership bonuses, including earning National Board Certification.
- Pay bonuses for meeting both local and state student achievement and growth goals. The local goals must be developed in consultation with the certificated employees in the district and must be based on one or more measures. Some of the measures listed in Luna’s plan are student test scores, graduation rates, parental involvement, and student attendance rate. State goals will be determined by the State Department of Education, based on student growth.
One of the pillars of Mr. Luna’s education plan is to increase student learning through “the magic of technology,” even though we know few high-school students who aren’t already immersed in technology. His plan provides funding for districts to ensure high schools (grades 9-12) are equipped with wireless technology, have access to high-quality learning resources, and professional development that promotes the effective use of technology.
Any student completing all graduation requirements by the end of their junior year will be eligible to earn dual credits during the 12th grade year. Beginning with the 9th grade class of 2012-13, all students will be provided with a “mobile computing device.” And, all students will be required to successfully complete six credits of online courses in order to graduate.
However, the funding for technology per support unit drops by more than 50 percent over the life of Luna’s plan ($1,700 FY2013, $945 FY 2014, $935 FY 2015, $745 FY 2015 and after). Will school districts be expected to make up the difference? What if chosen technologies become outdated? The plan’s emphasis on laptops is already behind current and fast-evolving technology preferences for tablet computers, e-readers, smart phones, and so on.
CHARTER SCHOOL AUTHORITY
The Luna plan also allows for Idaho colleges and universities to operate charter high schools.