December 18, 2012 in Idaho

School boards push for reforms

Group says some parts of Prop 1 still needed
By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Idaho school boards plan to press for laws that revive controversial school reforms that voters rejected in November.

Among the provisions sought by the Idaho School Boards Association: allowing districts to impose contract terms unilaterally on local teachers unions if agreements aren’t reached by a firm deadline.

“We really tried to focus on the things that the trustees felt were most important to them, and to leave the rest of it alone,” said Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association. “We hoped that the union would support at least parts of this – we know they won’t be able to support all of it.”

Maria Greeley, a Boise school trustee, opposed the school board association’s resolution at a conference last month.

“It’s Proposition 1 right back up there again,” she said. “I’m not saying that everything in it is bad. … The one piece that concerns me the most is that deadline, because it gives districts the opportunity to abuse the negotiation process. It doesn’t make them come in and do the tough work of working through it.”

Greeley was the co-chair of the successful statewide referendum campaign to reject Idaho’s contentious school reforms through Propositions 1, 2 and 3.

Besides a new merit-pay program the reforms also required a new focus on technology and online learning, including laptop computers for all Idaho high school students.

This fall, Greeley was elected to the Boise school board.

Senator John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said of the voters’ rejection of Proposition 1 by 57 percent: “I guess you can interpret that any way you want. They rejected Prop 1 in totality. I don’t know that that means there aren’t parts of Prop 1 that they would not support. And certainly I’ve seen survey data that would lead me to believe that’s the case.”

Goedde said he’s seen parts of a private poll commissioned by the secretive Education Voters of Idaho group, which hasn’t publicly revealed its poll data or any information about the poll.

He said he expects legislation along the lines of the ISBA resolution to “move forward fairly early in the process” when lawmakers convene in January. “I think we will get lobbied very hard by members of the school boards association, locally elected trustees, to move that forward,” Goedde said. “And if locally elected trustees are supportive of that, I think it deserves a hearing and discussion.”

Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association, said, “the voters have already spoken overwhelmingly. … Evidently ISBA didn’t hear that.”

“We took that as a loud and clear response from the citizens of Idaho that the process that was used to bring all these things forward didn’t work, and that we all need to sit down and figure out what is best for education together,” she said.

Gov. Butch Otter has hinted that he’ll appoint a 33-member group to explore what the state should do on school reform after voters’ rejection of the “Students Come First” laws he helped champion along with state schools Superintendent Tom Luna.


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