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School boards want supermajority for school bonds lowered, impact fees for schools

At the Idaho School Boards Association convention in Boise today, two resolutions aimed at easing school districts’ financial woes were approved, reports Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News; his full report is online here. The school trustees from around the state overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for lowering the two-thirds supermajority now required to pass a school construction bond; the change would require amending the Idaho Constitution.  

“It is not majority wins on this this,” Mike Vuittonet, said chairman of the West Ada School District board, whose district saw a $104 million bond issue fail in August despite receiving 63 percent backing. “The minority can kill a bond for needed school facilities, even when hazardous conditions exist and people need to pass a bond to repair their schools.” Corbin reports that the ISBA has been backing the proposal for the past eight years, so far without success.

The second resolution seeks authority for school districts to impose a fee on new construction, to help pay for building or expanding schools. A third resolution opposing the new tiered teacher licensing rule was withdrawn, with its former backers saying their concerns were satisfied by changes the state Board of Education made to the rule when it adopted it yesterday.

School trustees overwhelmingly back Idaho Core Standards

School trustees from across the state, gathered in Coeur d’Alene Friday for the Idaho School Boards Association convention, voted overwhelmingly to endorse the new Idaho Core Standards, which the state adopted in 2011 to set higher goals for student achievement at each grade level, Idaho Education News reports; you can read their full report here. The standards have been drawing increasing political opposition - some opponents are labeling them a communist plot - even as they’ve been implemented in schools across the state; ISBA members voted 2,910 to 492 in favor of them. The trustees also voted down a resolution calling for the state to train personnel to use guns on campuses; other resolutions they backed included one calling for restoration of school operational funding removed through state budget cuts. The resolutions will become the core of ISBA’s legislative agenda.

Lawmakers urged to reconsider voter-rejected rollback in teacher collective bargaining rights

Idaho voters rejected a rollback in teachers’ collective bargaining rights in the November election, but the state’s school boards association is gearing up to try to put some of the same provisions right back into Idaho’s laws. “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.”

 Among the provisions the school boards group wants to revive: A June 10 deadline by which, if districts haven’t reached agreements with their local teachers unions, they can just impose contract terms unilaterally. At least 16 Idaho school districts did that this year; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. “It’s Proposition 1 right back up there again,” said Maria Greeley, a Boise school trustee who opposed the resolution at last month’s state school boards association conference. “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.”

Senator John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, 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.”  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.”