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Otter signs teacher contract, merit pay bills

Thu., March 17, 2011, 11:37 a.m.

BOISE - Idaho Gov. Butch Otter quietly signed two controversial school reform bills into law today, removing most collective bargaining rights from Idaho teachers and imposing a teacher merit pay program.

The two are the first of three bills he and state schools Supt. Tom Luna pushed this year in what they dubbed the “Students Come First” reform package, with the third aimed at raising Idaho’s class sizes and cutting 770 teaching jobs in the next two years, to generate millions in savings to be funneled into teacher merit pay and technology boosts, including providing laptop computers to every high school student.

That measure, however, remains stalled in a Senate committee; lawmakers expect a new version to emerge on Friday, minus most of its main provisions - leaving out online course requirements, class size increases, and teacher cuts. Instead, the new bill likely would fund laptop computers for teachers as a first step toward supplying them to students, and leave local school districts with the decision on how to handle big budget cuts next year.

Otter, in a statement after he signed SB 1108 and SB 1110, said, “I had the privilege of signing into law today two bills that have been a long time coming, have been publicly vetted and debated to an unprecedented degree, and will improve the ability of our public schools to fulfill their mission of educating Idaho’s children. But our work is not done. We are committed to continuing our work with lawmakers and stakeholders on legislation to provide students and educators with the technology and flexibility they need to be successful in an increasingly competitive world.”

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