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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.”

Of polls, private and public, and next steps on school reform…

Buoyed by the results of a private poll commissioned by Education Voters of Idaho, some backers of the failed “Students Come First” school reform laws – including Gov. Butch Otter – are calling for reviving “parts and pieces” of the voter-rejected laws. But the leaders of the successful referendum campaign against the laws say they shouldn’t be the starting point for new school reform discussions. “We just had the ultimate poll,” said Mike Lanza, referring to the overwhelming rejection of the laws by voters on Nov. 6. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Lanza, Greeley applaud Otter, call for thoughtful, year-long approach to school reform

The co-chairs of the successful campaign to defeat Propositions 1, 2 and 3 on the November ballot, the “Students Come First” or Luna laws, today released a statement applauding Gov. Butch Otter for looking into forming a broad stakeholder task force to look into future school reforms, but urged against enacting any new reform laws in the upcoming legislative session. “It’s entirely feasible that this group could issue recommendations by the end of 2013, in time for the 2014 Legislature,” the two said in their two-page statement; you can read it here.

Lanza said, “Let’s go back to ground zero – we should not be talking about bringing back laws that were overwhelmingly rejected.” He and Greeley called for the 2013 Legislature to address school funding issues brought about by the laws’ repeal, to keep school districts “whole” in their funding for the current school year. “This money should go to the schools, and it shouldn’t be used for other agendas,” Lanza said. “The Legislature voted to allocate that money and they shouldn’t pull the plug on schools now. … This is budgetary housekeeping that the Legislature could do quickly.” Greeley said the state funds that this year’s school budget allocated for specific items under the reform laws should be turned over to local school districts. Said Lanza, “I think for the most part, those districts know exactly what they need it for.”

The two said they’ve had many conversations and meetings with others on all sides of the education reform issue since the election, including the governor’s office, and have felt a broad sense of agreement that future school reforms in Idaho should be aimed directly at improving student achievement. “We’re very encouraged by both the commitment of a lot of frankly influential people, and the caliber of ideas that they are bringing to the table,” Lanza said.

Last week, Gov. Butch Otter told an audience of 400 at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho convention that he’s looking into naming a 33-member stakeholder group, to be overseen by the State Board of Education, to examine school reform issues in the wake of the laws’ defeat.