We enter each legislative session filled with determination, hope, and apprehension. We know you count on us to help you navigate the sometimes confusing process that is lawmaking. We serve as your voice while you go about the most important work—educating your students. We strive to engage you with lawmakers about crucial issues and keep you informed about the complicated matters legislators are dealing with.
Colin Powell–retired four-star Army General and US Secretary of State under President George W Bush–said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, learning from failure.”
As each session ends, we take time to reflect on the work we’ve undertaken during the session and contemplate our successes. There have been years when the list of our successes has been rather short. Fortunately, 2015 is not one of those years. Here’s a review of some of the issues we worked on this session.
IEA members can attest to the hard work and preparation that went into ensuring that the State Board of Education’s proposed rule on teacher tiered certification and career ladder legislation was good for students and professional educators. The initial State Board rule tied local teacher evaluations to certification; any teacher who did not meet the ridiculous expectations outlined in the rule would have run the risk of losing the ability to teach in Idaho.
After a combination of emails, telephone calls and comments from hundreds of teachers, administrators, and parents in three separate public hearings all across Idaho about the unworkable plan, the State Board retreated…marginally.
Throughout the four-month legislative session, multiple concepts were considered and tossed. When a plan eventually emerged in early March, teachers were troubled. After more than five and a half hours of public testimony and an unprecedented lunch meeting with IEA members by House Speaker Scott Bedke and House Education Chair Reed DeMordaunt, teacher voices were heard and their ideas were heeded. In a matter of a week, the bill sponsor had reworked the bill to address each of the concerns raised by teachers.
As a result, Idaho school districts are poised to receive an influx of $200 million over the next five years to significantly boost teacher salaries. You can read much more about this historic change in how the state will now allocate funding for teacher salaries in this edition of the Reporter.
IEA has been working with lawmakers for nearly a decade to ensure that teachers have the training they need to recognize and appropriately intervene when they witness bullying. This year, lawmakers were able to find the sweet spot that balanced local control with state oversight. As a result, school districts will now be required to provide professional development to staff members to help them recognize and authorize them to intervene when they witness bullying. Additionally, students and parents must be informed of districts’ anti-bullying policies.
6th Grade Alternative School Funding
It’s sometimes better the second time around. That was the case for an idea pitched several years ago at IEA’s annual Delegate Assembly. Currently, state funding for alternative education is only allowed for grades 7-12. A number of school districts have 6th through 8th grade middle school configurations. Alternative school funding for 6th graders will allow schools to identify and provide interventions for students one year earlier and help at-risk students to be more prepared for 7th grade. The new law passed this session will increase funding for middle schools that offer alternative education programs for 6th graders.
Teacher Contracts/Reduction in Force
Following the defeat of Propositions 1, 2, and 3 in 2012, three laws that impact teacher contract law were introduced. In each instance, a sunset date was attached to the laws. Over the ensuing years, the IEA and the school boards association have been monitoring the laws with the goal of identifying their value. This session, we agreed to make modifications to some of the laws and allow others to continue as they are. As a result of our consensus on the laws, next year a district will be able to increase or decrease a salary or contract days—as they have been able to do since 2013—as long as they first declare a Reduction in Force. In addition, the criteria under which a district can declare a RIF were greatly enhanced.
Governor’s Task Force Recommendations
Since the Governor’s Task Force Recommendations were published in September 2013, the State Board has been fleshing out the recommendations and working to implement them. This session, lawmakers addressed most of the recommendations that they had not already dealt with. As a result, Idaho will create an incubator program to identify the roadblocks and solutions to creating a mastery-based education system in Idaho; middle school, junior high, and high school students will have even more opportunities to move through their secondary school experience at a faster rate and to earn more dual credits also that will follow them to an Idaho college or university.
We’ve all seen the poster commonly displayed in classrooms across the state that says, “Success is a Journey, Not a Destination.” The past decade has not been necessarily kind to public schools and public school employees. However, as the post reminds us, success is overcoming. Success is persisting. Success is persevering. The work we have been able to accomplish together this legislative session is a testament to your perseverance and persistence. We are grateful for your membership. Thank you.
Penni Cyr, IEA President
Robin Nettinga, IEA Executive Director