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Idaho teachers sue to block reform bill

BOISE - The Idaho Education Association filed a lawsuit in 4th District Court in Ada County today challenging the constitutionality of SB 1108, the bill Idaho lawmakers passed this year and Gov. Butch Otter signed into law to remove most collective bargaining rights from teachers.

The state teachers union and several co-plaintiffs charge that the measure violates constitutional requirements by canceling vested contract rights for teachers, and by combining multiple subjects into a single bill. It also challenges related “trailer” bills that add provisions to SB 1108, including one adding an emergency clause.

“Because the Legislature, Gov. Otter and State Superintendent (Tom) Luna failed to listen to the voices of Idaho citizens and, in the case of SB 1108 and the trailer bills, overstepped their legal bounds, the IEA supports citizen efforts to place referenda on the ballot challenging the Luna laws,” said Sherri Wood, IEA president.  “Likewise, we will challenge the constitutionality of SB 1108 and the trailer bills.”

The union strongly opposed the bill, along with two others that made up Luna’s “Students Come First” school reform package; all three became law. The second bill imposes a teacher merit-pay bonus system, and the third shifts millions from teacher salary funds into technology upgrades, including phasing in the purchase of a laptop computer for every high school student, and the merit-pay bonus program.

A signature-gathering campaign is now under way statewide to place a referendum on the November 2012 Idaho ballot to overturn all three new laws.