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IEA Members’ Collective Power Defeated House Bill 602

March 8, 2024

House Bill 602 was intended to be a crippling blow to the Idaho Education Association. Instead, it became one of the most important legislative victories in the 132-year history of the IEA — your union.

Your collective power as IEA members and Idaho’s most important education experts made this win possible. IEA’s formidable presence at the Statehouse and school buildings all across this state is a force for good in our state — winning new investments for students and public education, securing better salaries for all educators, and defeating bad-for-education bills like a seemingly endless variety of voucher schemes.

House Bill 602 was a direct attack on that success. Anti-public education forces at the Statehouse and beyond have grown increasingly frustrated at your union’s ability to foil their plans to unravel public education in this state. Through this bill, they sought to strip you of your collective influence.

Instead, they were handed yet another defeat.


House Bill 602 was a union-busting bill, plain and simple. It aimed to strip IEA members of their right to organize in the workplace, negotiate in good faith with their administration or even work cooperatively with their school districts to improve their schools. And yesterday’s 31-38 vote on the floor of the Idaho House of Representatives wasn’t just a win for your union and your local, it represented a profound rejection of a national agenda targeting educators’ unions.


The bill was the product of the Freedom Foundation, an out-of-state anti-teacher’s union policy mill closely aligned with the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The Freedom Foundation, which lobbied lawmakers aggressively for the bill’s passage, tailored its national agenda to Idaho and coordinated its attacks with anti-public education elements in the Legislature. House Bill 602 was sponsored by a trio of North Idaho lawmakers: Sen. Ben Toews (R-Couer d’Alene), Rep. Sage Dixon (R-Ponderay) and Rep. Dale Hawkins (R-Fernwood).

IEA’s allies in the Legislature, other education stakeholders and other labor unions were quick to see the danger. They rallied and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the IEA in defiance of this attack. The Professional Fire Fighters of Idaho and the Fraternal Order of the Police, the Idaho chapter of the AFL-CIO and the Idaho Brotherhood of Electrical Workers all actively lobbied against this bill. IEA’s partners at the Idaho Association of School Administrators and the Idaho School Boards Association did as well.


Special thanks are reserved for pro-education lawmakers who pushed back against the extreme pressure they faced from the Freedom Foundation’s lobbyists and their anti-union allies in the Legislature. Reps. Julie Yamamoto (R-Caldwell) and Lori McCann (R-Lewiston), respectively chair and vice chair of the House Education Committee, as well as others, doubled down on their ongoing and brave fight to protect educators and public education in opposition to this bill.

While our allies stood with us in this fight, it was your influence as an IEA member that saved the day. Your union is the essential bulwark in the just struggle to protect students, public schools and educators. Your power turned an attack into victory.

As always, thank you for everything you do for your students, our public schools and your colleagues in this union. And, please, always remember that the best argument in favor of public education is the good, simple truth of what happens in your classroom each and every day.

Layne McInelly is president of the Idaho Education Association and a professional certified educator who taught in Idaho public schools for 12 years.

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