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Permanent school-cut legislation unveiled

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, the House Education Committee chairman, proposed two far-ranging bills this morning to make permanent changes in state law to allow cuts in Idaho’s public school funding. Among them: No state funding for field trips, including academic outings, ever again. All school district contracts with staff would expire at the end of every fiscal year, and no terms or conditions could carry over beyond that. Idaho would repeal the law that requires no reduction in salary or contract days for experienced teachers. School districts could impose reductions in force regardless of contract terms. State reimbursement to school districts for busing would drop from 85 percent of costs to 50 percent, though discretionary funding would increase to make up part of the loss. “This is not fun stuff … but we’re in a crisis,” Nonini told the committee. “The other thing we are accomplishing in this legislation is not to have teachers lose their jobs.”

Both bills - one on personnel and contracts, the other on transportation - were introduced on 11-5 votes in the committee; three days of joint education hearings are planned on them next week. Rep. Liz Chavez, D-Lewiston, told Nonini, “With all due respect, these changes will impact our children in Idaho. … I understand that we all have to make sacrifices, I am well aware of that. But it appears to me from this RS that the sacrifices are being made by the teachers. They’re to teach the same amount of contract time but with less money, less assurance.” If the bill were passed, she said, “I can’t imagine a teacher from somewhere else wanting to come here.”

When Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, asked why the changes are all permanent rather than temporary, Nonini said, “Not knowing when these better times will come, it’s pretty hard to go in and put a sunset in there. … We think that recovery time is still a moving target.” Nonini said if economic times improve, any legislator in the future could propose changes to the law. Nonini said no Attorney General’s opinion has been sought on the bill, and he said he didn’t think it canceled existing contracts. “They still have their contracts, I think,” he told Eye on Boise. “What this legislation would do is just allow these school districts the flexibility to negotiate. … It gets the district and the teachers association to the table to negotiate.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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