BOISE – Idaho lawmakers have sent the final piece of a plan to reform the state’s public schools to the governor’s desk, following three months of fierce debate that dominated the 2011 legislative session.
The controversial bill calls for phasing in new laptop computers for every Idaho high school student, diverting school district funds to online course providers, and shifting funding from teachers to technology, among other changes. It passed the House on Friday on a 44-26 vote after a debate that lasted more than four hours, during which protesting Democrats forced a full reading of the 24-page bill.
The reform plan has been strongly criticized by Idaho teachers, school districts and even students, who last month walked out of class in protests around the state.
Rep. Tom Trail, R-Moscow, told the House, “I received over 600 emails, and only two were in favor of it.”
Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, said, “This plan … does replace teachers with technology. No amount of rhetorical tap-dancing can change that.”
Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, countered, “Did the microwave replace the cook in the kitchen? It did not, in the same way that technology is not going to replace the teacher in the classroom.” He said technology allows education to transform from “the sage on the stage to a guide by the side.”
The debate was abruptly cut off in a parliamentary maneuver by House Republicans, after Rep. Jim Marriott, R-Blackfoot, said it had gone on long enough. House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, called that “bad form” and said, “Cutting people off from having their voice is pretty typical for the Republican Legislature this year.”
The bill, which earlier passed the Senate, now heads to Gov. Butch Otter, who co-sponsored the plan with Luna and has pledged to sign it into law.
All 13 House Democrats voted against the bill; they were joined by 13 House Republicans, including Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and North Idaho Reps. George Eskridge, of Dover, and Tom Trail, of Moscow.