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Eye On Boise

Tue., March 6, 2007, 1:59 p.m.

New ‘teacher compensation model’ in the works

House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, announced today that they’ll be introducing legislation later this week to set up an “alternative teacher compensation model” in Idaho, though they won’t push for the bill to pass this year.

Bedke told the Idaho Press Club, “We shouldn’t have a system that allows for sub-par performance when it comes to the teaching of our children.” Geddes said in meeting with his local school superintendents over the years, he’s learned that they seldom “terminate a bad teacher” because of the cost involved. “I’m not saying that there’s an overwhelming number of bad teachers,” Geddes said, but he said districts should be able to replace those who aren’t performing. So, he said, he and Bedke have come up with this plan: “We would pay them more money if they sacrificed their tenure.” He said, “That’s kind of the direction that Rep. Bedke and I are pursuing at this time.”

If every teacher wanted to choose the new alternative compensation model rather than our current system, Geddes said, it’d likely cost the state another $70 million a year to pay them more. So the plan would need lots of discussion and planning before it could be put into effect. That’s why the GOP leaders decided to just introduce the bill now, and let people kick the idea around over the summer. Said Bedke, “I would like for this to be a starting point for discussion in the interim.”

The news came as Geddes and Bedke addressed the Idaho Press Club at the group’s annual “Headliner” luncheon with legislative leaders today. Bedke filled in for Speaker Lawerence Denney, who backed out due to a family obligation. There was plenty of news as the two legislative leaders spoke and answered questions from the media. Among the highlights:

• The Senate will go to its amending order, the 14th Order, on Thursday to amend the grocery tax credit bill, HB 81. Geddes said, “One of the options will be to reduce the overall cost … simply double what is already available.”

• The House is looking at possible changes to HB 245, the bill to phase in a $100 million property tax break for business by eliminating the personal property tax on business equipment. That’s why the bill has been “hanging on the calendar,” Bedke said, rather than coming up each day as the House moves through its agenda. “Some of the new members are saying, ‘If we know this is going to be changed in the Senate, why don’t we do it here?’” Bedke said. “That’s why it’s hanging.”

• Asked about Gov. Butch Otter’s proposal to disband the state Department of Administration, Bedke said, “It’s likely we won’t do it this year.” Geddes said he hopes lawmakers will introduce the bill for consideration later. “I’m not sure that we’ll even have a vote on that bill this year,” he said.

• A new verb was coined: “Garvee-ing.” The context: Idaho is struggling with the costs of growth, and even big steps like bonding for highway improvements don’t seem to have caught the state up to the need. Yet, there’s legislative resistance to much change. Geddes said, “Are we going to grant local-option sales tax? I represent rural Idaho, and I don’t see how that will help my small communities. Everybody has to weigh that.” Still, lawmakers recognize that pressing growth-related problems – like traffic congestion in the Treasure Valley – need some solution, and if they don’t allow the local-option sales taxes to fund transit that locals are proposing, they’ll need to offer some other option. “The issues are not going away,” Bedke said. “I don’t think anybody disputes the fact that the valley is growing and mass transit will be part of the answer.”

• Legislative leaders have been meeting weekly with the governor, and mainly, lately, they’ve been talking about GARVEE bonds. That’s one of the major issues hanging as the legislative session draws to an end this month; Otter has proposed another $264 million round of GARVEE bonding next year for highway improvements, after this year’s first $200 million effort.

• Asked about immigration issues and an official-English bill, Geddes responded in German, prompting a response from a reporter, also in German. Geddes said he sees great value in people knowing other languages, but he supports the official-English bill. “I don’t see the fear in Sen. Richardson’s bill,” he said, adding that he’s been to Canada and seen the confusion caused there by having two official languages.

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.