No doubt about it: Superintendent Luna’s proposed legislation to overhaul education is generating much discussion. Not surprisingly, those who view education as a bottom-line, business-oriented enterprise are jumping right on board. But those who have the best understanding of the great work our schools are doing – and those who have the most at stake in the debate: parents, educators, and students – know that the Luna plan does not really put children first.
Public opposition to the Luna plan has been swelling ever since the JFAC hearing last month. As a result, Luna supporters like Melaleuca, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, and others have begun a steady drumbeat – complete with advertisements and endorsements – to cheerlead for this flawed, incomplete plan.
But because we know our kids deserve better, and because this is a test of who we are as Idahoans, we must not be intimidated by these Goliaths. The voices of thousands of Idaho parents and educators matter as much as those of big-business interests. If lawmakers continue to hear – as they have for weeks now – that everyday Idaho parents, teachers, and students oppose the Luna plan, they will be compelled to oppose it.
Last night, we provided a 30,000 foot level view of Superintendent Tom Luna’s education bills. Over the next few days, we will detail some of the specific aspects of his plan.
Today we’ll focus on two pieces of the “Labor Relations & Employee Entitlements” bill that significantly change the relationship between the district and an individual teacher and the local association and the district.
If the Luna plan passes, currently employed Idaho teachers will see significant changes to their employment status with the district. Here are some details:
EXISTING IDAHO TEACHERS
- If you do not currently have continuing contract status, you never will. In fact, the bill would prohibit the district from offering current employees renewable contract status. Instead, the district will need to determine whether to offer you a Category B or C contract.
- If you currently have renewable contract status, assuming you have no teaching deficiencies that would otherwise jeopardize your employment status, the district must offer you a contract by July 20 of each year.
- However … if funding for your district is reduced due to declining student enrollment, you may be laid off, regardless of the number of years you have been employed by your district. The legislation expressly prohibits the district from using seniority as a factor in any reduction in force (RIF) decisions.
- The district must provide struggling teachers with a minimum of 6 weeks of probation.
- The board no longer is required to have just and reasonable cause for terminating your employment, however you will be granted a full hearing before the board.
- If you choose to appeal the board’s decision through the court system, the bill would limit the court’s decision-making authority.
- Luna’s bill eliminates any and all possible legal challenges to a school district’s failure to fairly and properly evaluate teachers.
- If you are currently employed under renewable status in a school district and choose to accept employment in another school district, you will lose your renewable contract status. Your new employer will determine whether to offer you a Category B or C contract.
- Some of the most contemptible pieces of this legislation are aimed directly at the local associations and the decades of work that has gone into assuring fair employment practices for teachers and sound professional decisions that protect students, schools, and classrooms.
- First and foremost, this legislation would declare that all master contracts currently in existence in the state are not only against public policy, but that they “…subvert the ability of the people to direct their own affairs…and are contrary to the tenets of a free republic.” As a result, all master agreements in the state will cease to exist at the end of June, 2011.
- In all future years, the local association can only bargain compensation (defined as salary and benefits) and benefits (defined narrowly as insurance, leave time and sick leave banks). All other decisions are the solely determined by the school board.
- Luna’s bill strikes the phrase “good faith” from Idaho bargaining law. Both by (il)logic and law, bad faith bargaining would be legally permissible.
- If boards and locals don’t agree to a collective bargaining agreement, the board can impose any settlement it wants for salary and benefits.
- Even before the local association can enter into the process of bargaining a new contract, they must assure the district that they have been selected as the bargaining agent for the teachers. At the beginning of every school year, the local association must provide the district with a list of all association members or other evidence that the teachers of the district have selected the association to represent them at the bargaining table.
- If the local cannot provide the district with evidence that they have been selected to represent a majority of the teachers, then the district is not required to negotiate.
- If no agreement is reached by June 10th of every year, the school board can do what it wants. Under this provision, it may be that a school board could just sit and listen to their local association's proposals but just say “no,” knowing full well that on June 11th they will get to impose whatever they want.
TOMORROW: We will continue to outline the plethora of remaining issues in the “Labor Relations & Employee Entitlements” bill.
… and by the way …
Late last night, we learned that the print hearing for Luna’s bills – originally set for Monday, January 31, then delayed until today – would be further delayed until tomorrow (Thursday, February 3) because neither bill contained the required “Statement of Purpose/Fiscal Note.”
So, given what we’ve started to outline above, does this mean that the only purpose of the bill is to bash the teachers’ union … and that Superintendent Luna has no clear idea of what the fiscal impact will be?