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Idaho House fails to override Otter’s veto of teacher-evaluation bill

UPDATED: Tue., March 27, 2018, 8:12 p.m.

House Education Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, discusses the upcoming veto override vote on her teacher-evaluation bill in the Idaho House chamber on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. The override attempt fell short, and the veto stands. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)
House Education Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, discusses the upcoming veto override vote on her teacher-evaluation bill in the Idaho House chamber on Tuesday, March 27, 2018. The override attempt fell short, and the veto stands. (Betsy Z. Russell / SR)

BOISE – Idaho lawmakers failed Tuesday to override Gov. Butch Otter’s first veto of the year, unable to even rally a majority of the House – let alone the required two-thirds – to overturn the governor’s veto of a teacher-evaluation bill.

The measure would have removed the Idaho Reading Indicator from the list of measures school districts could consider as evidence of student growth, for purposes of teacher evaluations. Under Idaho’s new teacher career ladder, those evaluations are tied to teachers’ raises.

“I still believe in my bill,” said House Education Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, the sponsor of the vetoed bill. She said she wasn’t pushing for an override vote. But after an hourlong, closed-door GOP caucus, House Republicans decided to go ahead with the vote, with many saying they felt they had a duty to take some kind of action in response to the governor’s veto – whether or not it succeeded.

Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, serves on the Education Committee and voted against the override. He said the new reading test, which lawmakers just approved rolling out statewide next year, is much different from the 20-year-old IRI that Idaho kindergartners through third-graders have been taking each fall and spring. VanOrden had unsuccessfully pushed to stop the rollout of the new test.

Rep. Steven Miller, R-Fairfield, who voted for the override, said, “This was never developed to be a teacher assessment tool – it was for kids, not for teachers.”

But Otter, in his veto message, argued that the teacher career ladder, and the accompanying increases in school funding that the state has been approving each year for the past four years, are conditioned on accountability – and that’s what things like the testing provide.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, who voted in favor of the failed override attempt, said he felt like the Legislature spoke, and I felt duty-bound.” But, he said, “The governor’s veto message carried the day,” with its focus on the “accountability component.”

VanOrden said, “It was an education in process, because we’ve never done this since I’ve been here.”

Before this year, Otter had vetoed 62 bills, but the last time the Legislature overrode his veto was in 2007, on a bill that added bowling alleys to a smoking-restrictions law.

Otter, like more than 80 percent of Idaho lawmakers, is a Republican.

Lawmakers finished the bulk of their work last week, but opted to extend their session for the full five days after their last bill was delivered to the governor’s desk to preserve their option to override any veto. If the governor doesn’t sign a bill into law or veto it within five days, it becomes law without his signature.


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