When House and Senate leaders encouraged the chairs of the education committees to hold a joint “listening session” earlier this month, it appeared there would be little policy to discuss. After all, no bills had yet been introduced. That all changed earlier this week, when the Idaho School Boards Association introduced seven pieces of legislation, many of them mere reincarnations of the pieces outlined in the voter-rejected Proposition 1.
Earlier this morning, more than 200 Idahoans filed into the capitol auditorium, anxious to talk about these, and other issues. Discussion about charter school funding and the ISBA bills that would give more power to school boards dominated the two and one half hour meeting.
IEA President Penni Cyr made the following statement, on behalf of Idaho educators.
Chairman Goedde, Chairman DeMordaunt, and members of the Senate and House Education Committee, I’m Penni Cyr, a teacher of 28 years on leave from the Moscow School District, serving as President of the IEA.
Thank you for providing this forum to speak about education issues. I am speaking on behalf of the members of the IEA who are in their classrooms today teaching their students. Our members care deeply about the decisions you make in this building. They also care deeply about the students they teach and the work they do in their classrooms.
We did not urge our members to leave their classrooms to come speak today. Instead, we asked the Chairmen to hold an evening meeting at a later date. We hope this will allow time for educators to participate. We know all educators won’t be able to come, but those living near our Capitol would have an opportunity to speak with you. In the meantime, our members will continue communicate with you through email, by phone, and in person when you’re home for weekend visits.
While there are many issues important to IEA members, time does not permit me to discuss them all. Today I will focus my comments on the recent introduction of legislation that brings back most of the concepts found in Proposition 1 that voters defeated in November.
The Idaho School Boards Association has a right to bring forward issues that are important to its members. But, with all due respect, having the executive director of the ISBA stand before your committees and claim that her members understand what bothered my members about the law and further assure you that their bills do not address any of those topics is insulting.
Football coach Bear Bryant said, “When you make a mistake, admit it; learn from it and don’t repeat it.” Legislators could take a card from his playbook.
Less than 90 days ago, Idaho voters overwhelmingly rejected each of the three propositions. None of us know with certainty why each of the 371,224 Idaho voters rejected Proposition 1, but from the day SB 1108 was introduced there was a public outcry regarding the process used to develop it.
I urge you; go back and review the notes from those days of public hearings. Re-read the hundreds of emails you and your colleagues received. Read the many letters to the editors printed during that period. Over and over and over again, the voters told you they did not like the process.
Yet, since the November election that very same process has been used to develop and introduce the seven bills before your committees today. Like Proposition 1, the bills were written without the involvement of the stakeholders. In fact, repeated attempts from my organization to have substantive conversations about these issues before they came before this body have been denied and rebuffed at virtually every turn.
Keeping stakeholders—parents and educators—in the dark until these bills were written and inviting us in after the fact to review the bills is less than sincere and non-productive. It is also demeaning and disingenuous to those who care deeply about our profession.
On behalf of my members, I’m asking you to take a step back and start over. When we’ve used a collaborative process it works; for example, we were successful in the drafting of the Financial Emergency law a few years ago. In the late 1990’s, stakeholders worked collaboratively to develop the New Teacher Support law that, when funded, provided a number of supports for those newest to our profession.
There are many other issues I’d like to discuss with you today: FY 13 budget, Common Core Standards, IEA’s Recommendations, and so on. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time.
I hope, as we go forward, we can find ways to work together to ensure Idaho’s children have access to the best schools we can provide, staffed by highly skilled and respected educators.