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Eye On Boise

Wed., Oct. 3, 2012, 3:56 p.m.

Latest school reform ad from opponents hits union issue

The latest statewide TV commercial to air in the battle over Idaho's controversial school reform laws comes from opponents of the laws, and focuses on what may be their toughest sell in the right-to-work state: Proposition 1, which restricts collective bargaining rights for teachers. The ad says the laws "ignore our teachers' concerns," and "prohibit teachers from negotiating important things like overcrowded classrooms, supplies and student safety."

The claim about negotiations is accurate. SB 1108, which Proposition 1 would uphold, changed state law so that teacher negotiations can only be on "matters related to compensation of professional employees." Prior to the law, teacher contracts around the state routinely addressed other issues as well, from class size to bell schedules to furnace safety inspections.

"In Students Come First legislation, the teacher unions are targeted and their collective bargaining rights have been severely limited," said Jim Weatherby, Boise State University professor emeritus of public policy. The ad tries to focus that issue to show "the net effect of this legislation is a negative effect on teachers and ultimately on students. ... I think that's fairly effective," he said.     However, he noted, "How much that will resonate with the Idaho public is yet to be seen, in a right-to-work state where unions are not that popular." You can read my full story here at

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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