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Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna complains that a possible voter overturn of his Students Come First reform plan will be a “disruption.” For a definition, check for synonyms under “democracy” in the household dictionary. Or online. Americans have been disruptive since the original Tea Party. That colonists might object to a tax on their beverage seems not to have occurred to the British Parliament. So too, apparently, with the reforms enacted by the Idaho Legislature in 2011 that prompted a drive that collected the requisite signatures on three repeal measures in just a little more time than it took the founders to ink the Declaration of Independence/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.
I quizzed JFAC Co-Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, today about the what-if question I explored in my Sunday column: What happens if voters in November reject Propositions 1, 2 and 3, repealing state Superintendent Tom Luna’s Students Come First school reform laws, which already are in the process of being phased in?
A rejection of the three referenda would leave roughly $33 million sitting appropriated but unallocated in the public school budget for the current year; if lawmakers took no action during their 2013 session, it'd flow into the state's Public Education Stabilization Fund at the end of the school year. “I think we're still trying to get our arms around what would happen with the funds,” Cameron said. “The Legislature's going to act one way or the other, and we're going to appropriate the funds one way or another.” He added, “I think JFAC and the Legislature would certainly address it. Putting the funds toward salaries is very plausible, particularly the money that was allocated for pay for performance.” Other portions could go to discretionary funding for school districts, he said. “To me, those would be reasonable expectations.”
Cameron added, “I know the Legislature's not going to sit back and say … this money isn't going to be allocated towards education. It's going to be applied to education in a way that's appropriate.”
There’s a what-if question being debated in Idaho politics that matters quite a bit: What if voters in November reject Propositions 1, 2 and 3, repealing state Superintendent Tom Luna’s Students Come First school reform laws? The laws, passed in 2011, already are being phased in.
Here's how the process would work: If the three measures are defeated, much of the $60.5 million now tabbed for laptop computers, teacher merit-pay bonuses, tech upgrades and other Students Come First reforms in the current year would sit unallocated within the public school budget. Some would be used to reinstate programs the laws eliminated, such as a 99 percent funding “floor” for school districts that lose large numbers of students from one year to the next, and a $14.8 million allocation to teacher and administrator salaries. If lawmakers took no further action, the remaining money, roughly $33 million, would flow into Idaho’s public education stabilization fund, a state savings account for schools, at the end of the school year.
But when the Legislature convenes in January, it could redirect those funds through a supplemental appropriation rather than just let them sit all year. If lawmakers sent the money out as discretionary funds to school districts, districts would decide how to spend it. The portion of Idaho’s public school budget that goes out to districts as discretionary funds has been sharply cut in recent years. Legislative budget analyst Paul Headlee, asked about the process, said: “They could do that. They could put it into salaries. They could even take it out of the public schools budget and put it somewhere else in the state budget.”
You can read my full Sunday column here, including what both sides are saying about the what-if question, and what it portends. With GOP nominee Mitt Romney all but guaranteed to carry Republican-dominated Idaho, the presidential race is far from the hottest thing on Idaho’s general election ballot – instead, it’s the school laws.
Mike Lanza, chairman of “Vote No on Propositions 1, 2, 3,” the group urging repeal of the “Students Come First” school reform laws in three ballot measures, had this response to state schools Supt. Tom Luna's question today on how opponents of the laws would manage the “disruption” to Idaho's public school funding that would occur if the measures are defeated in November:
“Consistent with what we've said all along, we want to see control of local schools returned to local school boards and educators. So the money that has been appropriated for public schools should rightly go to public schools, but without those strings attached. Our schools need those resources. They've been short-changed for too many years.”
The defeat of the three measures would leave the funds now tabbed for laptop computers, teacher merit-pay bonuses and other “Students Come First” reforms unallocated within the public school budget; if lawmakers took no further action, it would flow into Idaho's public education stabilization fund, a state savings account for schools, at the end of the school year. But when the Legislature convenes in January, it could redirect those funds through a supplemental appropriation, rather than just let them sit all year; if it sent the money out as discretionary funds to school districts, districts would decide how to spend it. Legislative budget analyst Paul Headlee, asked about the process, said, “They could do that. They could put it into salaries. They could even take it out of the public schools budget and put it somewhere else in the state budget.”
Said Lanza, “I do believe that the local school districts are best able to decide how to run their schools. And if the state allocated funds to them and allowed them decide how to spend it, I think they'd be a lot better off than with the handcuffs the Luna laws placed on them.”
Luna, when he unveiled his budget request for the state's schools for next year earlier today, said he thought schools would see a major disruption if the referenda are voted down and the reform laws overturned. “You have districts right now that are under contract to pay for technology that they will not be able to pay for,” he said. Luna said he thought opponents should have proposed alternatives or changes to the reform laws he championed, rather than attempting to repeal them at the ballot box. “They chose to go at this with a meat ax and create such a disruption to our schools,” he said.
Lanza said, “It sounds to me like Superintendent Luna is complaining that it's greatly inconvenient for him and his office that the people of Idaho have decided they want the final say on his laws. His problem seems to be with the democratic process. There are many of us in the state, as evidenced by how many signatures we collected in a short time, who think that Tom Luna is the one who has created this disruption in the schools and it's already under way, and that we're going to be better off once we repeal these laws.”
Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna released his budget request today for the state's schools for next year, calling for a 5.1 percent, $64 million increase in state funding. Luna said he met with stakeholder groups over the summer, including the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Business Officials and others, to formulate the request; it reflects some of those groups' common priorities, he said, including “backfilling” the 1.67 percent cut in salary funds for teachers and administrators that was imposed in 2011 under the “Students Come First” school reform laws/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here. (AP file photo)
Question: Too little, too late?
Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna released his budget request today for the state's schools for next year, calling for a 5.1 percent, $64 million increase in state funding. Luna said he met with stakeholder groups over the summer, including the Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Business Officials and others, to formulate the request; it reflects some of those groups' common priorities, he said, including “backfilling” the 1.67 percent cut in salary funds for teachers and administrators that was imposed in 2011 under the “Students Come First” school reform laws. Restoring that funding next year would mean a $14.8 million increase in base salaries for Idaho teachers, administrators and classified staff from this year's level, Luna said; those base salaries still would remain below 2009 levels, however.
Luna emphasized that the budget proposal fully funds all the reform programs under “Students Come First,” including a $61 million teacher merit-pay bonus program, up from $38.8 million this year, and phasing in laptop computers for all high school students. Under the plan, teachers are to get the computers this fall; the first third of Idaho high school students would get them in the fall of 2013.
The budget request also calls for “unfreezing” one of two years on the state's teacher salary pay grid to provide scheduled increases for teachers who have additional years of experience; that change would cost $6.2 million. Luna said he hopes to remove the other frozen experience step on the grid the following year. He's also proposing a 2 percent increase in discretionary funds to school districts; and small increases in the current level of funding for information technology staff at school districts and for remediation for students falling behind.
Luna held a roundtable meeting with reporters to release the budget request, which now goes to Gov. Butch Otter. But he said it would all change if voters in November reject the “Students Come First” laws by passing three referenda, Propositions 1, 2 and 3. If the measures fail, he said, “Until the Legislature comes to town, we'd have no legal authority to distribute those funds.”
Luna hasn't formulated an alternate plan on how to proceed if the reforms are overturned, which would redirect the money for merit-pay bonuses, laptops and other “Students Come First” programs; that money still could only be spent on education. Luna suggested asking opponents of the reform laws, who collected more than 70,000 signatures to place the three measures on the ballot. “I'm very curious as to what their plan is for managing this disruption,” he said. “We've made it very clear in the past that you cannot cut school budgets in the middle of the school year, and that's what this amounts to.” You can see Luna's full budget request here; click below to read his news release.
The bitter relationship between Tom Luna and Idaho teachers just keeps deteriorating. The latest feud centers on — naturally — a component of the state schools superintendent’s far-reaching and hotly contested Students Come First laws. Under Luna’s merit pay plan, some 85 percent of Idaho teachers stand to receive some kind of bonus — on Nov. 15, and only if Idaho voters ratify the merit pay plan in a Nov. 6 referendum. Luna’s office says state law will not allow the state Education Department to hand out the $38.7 million any sooner. The response from Idaho Education Association president Penni Cyr was pretty much to be expected. “The state department is holding this money hostage,” Cyr told the Associated Press. “The teachers earned it, the Legislature appropriated it last year and they intended it to be used for teacher compensation/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Whose side are you on in this feud?
As Idaho voters decide on a sweeping education overhaul this November, teachers opposing the reforms may find themselves in a bind at the ballot box, the AP reports: By rejecting the changes, they could also be turning down a performance bonus after years of reduced or stagnant salaries. Idaho introduced merit pay under the reforms approved in 2011 and teachers worked toward those financial incentives last year. But the bonuses won't be paid out until Nov. 15, nine days after the referendum, and state officials say they can't distribute the money if the laws are repealed. The timeline is prompting outcry from the state's teachers union, which is fighting to overturn the reforms authored by Idaho schools superintendent Tom Luna; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
The campaign working to overturn Idaho's neducation reforms has launched a new radio advertisement calling a laptop program required under the plan an “unfunded mandate” that will require schools to spend millions of dollars they don't have, the AP reports, but the ad's claim that the laptops are unfunded conflicts with the $2.5 million lawmakers set aside to pay for the devices this fall when they'll go to every high school teacher. Students will start getting the laptops in 2013 under the reforms by public schools chief Tom Luna.
The fight over the three laws in Luna's reform package is heating up with less than three months left before voters decide whether to keep or ditch the sweeping changes that limited collective bargaining, phased out teacher tenure, introduced merit pay and put more technology in the classroom while requiring students to take online classes; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
State officials say the plan to supply the first laptop computers of a multi-year phase-in aimed at getting one to every Idaho high school student is on track for fall, despite hitting a snag last month when the state canceled bidding for insufficient response and instead opted to negotiate directly with providers. “We are still on track to meet the program's original delivery objectives with the first wave of mobile computing devices reaching schools this fall,” the state Department of Administration advised the state Department of Education ina memo late last week, the AP reports; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
Citing insufficient competition, Idaho officials have abandoned their original bidding process meant to equip public school teachers with laptop computers starting this fall. Instead, the state will negotiate directly with providers of computers and services, in hopes of keeping this five-year estimated $60 million piece of public schools chief Tom Luna’s “Students Come First” reforms on track even as he tries to fend off repeal measures on November’s ballot. State purchasing officials say only three private groups submitted bids following a request for proposals, or “RFP,” earlier this year. One missed the June 11 deadline and was excluded. Another was on time, but failed to meet state requirements. Only one actually met the qualifications/AP. More here.
Question: Why do you suppose there was so little interest in Idaho's call for bids for laptops?
After only three companies submitted bids to supply Idaho high schools with laptop computers over the next five years, and only one of those bids met the qualifications, the state is abandoning the bidding process and instead will negotiate with providers of computers and services, the Associated Press reports. Under Idaho's “Students Come First” school reform law, Idaho plans to spend $60 million over the next five years to achieve a “1-to-1” ratio of laptop computers to high school students; teachers are up to receive the first laptops this fall, with the first batch going to students in the fall of 2013 - if voters don't overturn the law in a November referendum vote.
State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said the department is still confident it can get the first laptops to teachers this fall despite the bid setback; click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
More than 100 people gathered on the steps outside Boise High School today to kick off a statewide campaign against the “Students Come First” school reform laws, which are up for possible repeal in three referendum measures on the November ballot. “We urge Idahoans to vote 'No' on all three propositions,” said Mike Lanza, a Boise father of two and campaign chairman. “These laws take us backward, not forward. They make it harder for teachers to do their jobs effectively. They are bad for children, bad for teachers and bad for Idaho.” Gov. Butch Otter already has formed a PAC to fight to preserve the laws, and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the laws' author, pushed hard for them at last weekend's state Republican Party convention/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Who do you trust more with public education — Tom Luna/Idaho Legislature or teachers?
More than 100 people gathered on the steps outside Boise High School today to kick off a statewide campaign against the “Students Come First” school reform laws, which are up for possible repeal in three referendum measures on the November ballot. “We urge Idahoans to vote 'No' on all three propositions,” said Mike Lanza, a Boise father of two and campaign chairman. “These laws take us backward, not forward. They make it harder for teachers to do their jobs effectively. They are bad for children, bad for teachers and bad for Idaho.”
Gov. Butch Otter already has formed a PAC to fight to preserve the laws, and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, the laws' author, pushed hard for them at last weekend's state Republican Party convention.
Lanza, drawing applause, said, “This is a non-partisan campaign. We have people from all political persuasions who support this effort. Education is important to everybody.” Speakers at the campaign launch included Boise mother of four Maria Greeley, who said her son struggled in an online class last summer and ultimately opted to withdraw and take the class in person. She decried the new requirement for online classes as a high school graduation requirement. “This one-size-fits-all mandate hurts our students and diminishes the quality of education,” Greeley said.
Nampa 5th-grade teacher Sonia Galaviz said last year was the most difficult of her teaching career. “My classroom size jumped from 27 to 35,” she said. “I had no aides. … However last year we did get various technological devices. … We would have done anything to turn those … into a live human teacher.”
The reform laws include phasing in a laptop computer for every high school student, a new focus on online learning, a merit-pay bonus program for teachers based partly on test scores, and rolling back teachers' collective bargaining rights. Any new funds in the public school budget in future years would go first to those new programs, before other expenses such as teacher salaries.
At least 21 Idaho school districts are unilaterally imposing contract terms on teachers this week, after failing to reach agreement with local teachers unions - an option for districts under the state's controversial “Students Come First” school reform law.
In the Lakeland School District in Kootenai County, members of the Lakeland Education Association voted 96 percent “no” on the district's last offer on salaries and benefits for the coming year, which, like the past four years, includes no base salary increase, but did offer some small thaws in the multi-year pay freeze. “The law is pretty strict now,” said Lakeland business manager Tom Taggart. “So pretty much what they rejected, we just turned around to the board and the board approved it.”
Other North Idaho school districts unilaterally imposing contract terms this week include Kellogg, Mullan and Wallace; in southern Idaho, they range from small districts like Middleton and Cascade to larger ones like Idaho Falls, Nampa and Caldwell. Carrie Scozzaro, a high school art teacher and outgoing president of the Lakeland association, said teachers feel like they're no longer being listened to as professionals. “There's that sort of hopelessness of not being part of the process and being accused of being part of the problem, which is frustrating,” she said.
The Students Come First laws included rolling back most collective bargaining rights for teachers; limiting contract negotiations to salary and benefits and making all contract terms expire each year; and shifting funds from salaries to merit-pay bonuses, a new focus on online learning, and laptop computers for high school students. State schools Superintendent Tom Luna, who proposed the reforms, said it's good news that just 21 of Idaho's 130 school districts and charter schools weren't able to reach agreement by strict new deadlines. “They said there would be strikes, there would be walkouts, there would be lawsuits - none of that has happened,” Luna said Wednesday. “If you measure this against the doomsday scenario that they painted, I think this is very positive news.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
It looks like a local school district will be a guinea pig this fall for the Students Come First initiative put forward by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. The Idaho Department of Education named Genesee School District among 32 others across the state to receive the laptops, after 170 high schools applied and were blindly rated by a committee. That gives Latah County a decided advantage in the implementation process of the 1:1 initiative, because it allows for some technical questions to be answered. Giving taxpayer-funded, expensive electronics to teenagers shouldn't happen without shedding light on some details.“The Genesee School District is excited to be one of the first districts to receive the 1:1 laptop devices,” Superintendent Wendy Moore said in a prepared statement. “We believe this initiative will help bring greater educational opportunities for our students and help raise academic achievement. … That sounds great, but how will it help raise academic achievement?/Kelsie Moseley, Moscow-Pullman Daily News. More here.
Question: How will Tom Luna's free computers raise academic achievement in Idaho?
Gov. Butch Otter and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna have named leaders for their campaign to fight three voter referenda in November that seek to overturn the “Students Come First” school reform laws Luna and Otter championed in 2011. The controversial laws roll back teachers' collective bargaining rights and shift existing school funding to a new focus on online learning, laptop computers for every student, and a new performance-pay bonus system for teachers, along with other changes. Opponents gathered more than 74,000 signatures to place the referenda on the ballot, but follow-up bills added emergency clauses so that the reform laws took effect in the meantime; that would stop if voters decide in November to repeal them. Yesterday, the State Department of Education announced the 32 school districts that will be up first to receive laptops, with teachers to get them this fall and students in the fall of 2013.
The new “Yes for Idaho Education” group will be co-chaired by state Board of Education member Milford Terrell and Idaho Falls school board member Wendy Horman, with retiring state Rep. Mack Shirley, R-Rexburg, as treasurer. Lobbyist Ken Burgess is coordinating the effort. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner. Burgess said Otter plans a formal launch for the group in the coming days.
A mix of large and small school districts will be first in line when Idaho starts providing laptop computers for every ninth- through 12th-grader next year, according to a list obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. AP reporter Jessie Bonner reports that the state Department of Education selected 32 districts, allowing up to 47 high schools to participate when the laptops start going to students in 2013 under reforms championed by public schools chief Tom Luna.
The list includes big districts like Meridian and Boise in southwest Idaho, though they'll be limited on how many high schools can participate. Tiny school districts such as Culdesac in the north and Kimberly in the south also made the cut, as did two charter schools. The laptops will first go to every high school teacher this fall. Idaho has yet to select the device that will be deployed into high school classrooms statewide, Bonner reports; a May 25 deadline for computer vendors to submit bids to the state's Division of Purchasing has been extended until Monday.
Under Luna's reforms, Idaho is also becoming the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate. The sweeping changes, which also limited collective bargaining talks while introducing teacher merit pay, were approved by state lawmakers in 2011 and targeted by critics, who were successful in getting a repeal initiative on the November ballot; click below for Bonner's full report.
Idaho state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has been named to a 19-member “Education Policy Advisory Group” by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. “I am proud to announce the support of this impressive group of policy leaders who are devoted to expanding educational opportunities for students,” Romney said in a statement. “Our education system is failing too many of our kids, and I look forward to working closely with these leaders to chart a new course that emphasizes school choice and accountability, the importance of great teachers, and access to quality, affordable higher education.”
Luna is the only state school superintendent named to the group; the other members all either work for private education companies, think tanks, universities or the federal government. Among them are K-12 education co-chairs Nina Rees, senior vice president for strategic initiatives at Knowledge Universe; and Martin West, a professor with the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Rod Paige, former U.S. secretary of education, was named a “special advisor” with the group; Luna worked for Paige under the Bush Administration.
Luna, in a news release sent out by the Idaho Republican Party, said, “I am excited to work with Gov. Romney to improve education across the country. As governor, he showed how states can truly put students first and raise academic achievement for all children. We have worked toward the same goals in Idaho, passing the most comprehensive education reform in the country to ensure every student can graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education without the need for remediation. Now, we must make this is possible for every child in every state.”
Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey points out that three members of the Bush Administration who are are advocates of for-profit education companies join Luna on the new advisory group, and also contributed to Luna's 2010 re-election campaign; you can read his report here. Click below for the full Idaho GOP news release; you can read Romney's full announcement here about his advisory group.
Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, who's running for the Idaho Senate, has made a last-minute $1,000 campaign donation through his PAC to the primary election challenger of the sitting chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert. That's a form of political heresy in the Senate that Nonini hopes to join, where past attempts to back challengers to fellow GOP incumbents have brought major sanctions from the Republican caucus. “It's not particularly good form,” Cameron said.
Nonini's Idaho Association for Good Government PAC made the contribution Wednesday to the campaign of Douglas Pickett of Oakley, who is running against Cameron, an 11th-term senator and co-chairman of the Legislature's most powerful committee, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Nonini, a fourth-term House member who's making a bid to jump over to the Senate this year, couldn't immediately be reached for comment; his contribution surfaced in the campaign finance reports that are now required to be filed within 48 hours of any last-minute contribution of $1,000 or more. That filing requirement took effect on Monday. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Idaho is now taking bids on the contract to provide every high school student and teacher in the state with a laptop computer, as part of its “Students Come First” school reforms. That AP reports that computer manufacturers have until May 25 to submit their pitches, and the state is looking for devices that weigh 6 pounds or less, have at least a 12-inch screen and a physical keyboard, and are durable enough to withstand the occasional spill, according to the request for proposals; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner. The state estimates the first five years of the phased-in laptop program will cost $60 million, if voters don't overturn the reform law in a November referendum.
State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna is headed off on a tour of school districts around the state, to update them on new legislation and the implementation of his “Students Come First” reforms, the Associated Press reports. The plan, as originally passed last year, shifted money away from salaries over several years to help pay for new classroom technology and teacher merit bonuses. “I think it's safe to say this was probably the most unpopular part of these laws for most people,” said Luna's deputy chief of staff Jason Hancock. This year, lawmakers partially reversed that move, cancelling scheduled salary cuts for future years, while maintaining the reforms as the top funding priority in the school budget. Cuts already made this year weren't reversed.
Luna's tour started in Nampa, with additional stops planned in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Burley, Coeur d'Alene and Moscow; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
For every Idaho teacher who left the profession in 2011, there is a personal, unique backstory behind the decision. The inescapable and unsettling truth is, nearly 1,300 teachers made that decision in 2011. A year earlier, that number was about 700, according to The Associated Press. Let’s just focus on what this means. People on both sides of the divisive issue of school reform should be able to agree on one point: An experienced, talented teaching staff is the cornerstone of a good school. When Idaho teachers leave teaching, in growing numbers, that can’t possibly be a desired outcome. On Wednesday, both sides tried to spin the reasons behind the numbers. That isn’t surprising, but it also isn’t very productive/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. More here. (SR file photo: A March 2011 protest against Luna education reforms in Post Falls)
Question: Do you think Superintendent Tom Luna's “education reform” was a factor in the mass exodus of teachers from Idaho classrooms in 2011?
Gov. Butch Otter’s recruitment of John Foster, a former Idaho Democratic Party executive director, suggests Otter is taking seriously his promise to defend “Students Come First” at the polls Nov. 6. The news, rumored the past two weeks, prompted anger and disappointment in Democratic circles, where repealing the three 2011 laws authored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna is a litmus test. In addition to a mandate for online classes, the laws restrict collective bargaining to salaries and benefits and enact pay-for-performance. “It has changed and is gonna change the complexion and effectiveness of education in Idaho, big time,” Otter said. “In order to be successful, you gotta get the best people”/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Will John Foster be a man without a party when the dust settles? Or will he continue to gravitate toward Republicans?
Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has enlisted a former Democratic political operative to help develop his strategy for fighting to preserve new education laws that weaken teacher negotiating power and emphasize online learning. The governor has vowed publicly to do everything in his power to guarantee the measures aren't rejected by voters in November. The battle over the reforms deeply divided Republicans and Democrats during the 2011 session. Now, Otter's staff has brought on John Foster to serve as an informal adviser leading up to the referendum. The decision, which Foster confirmed Tuesday, may surprise some/AP. More here.
DFO: Sisyphus had this one right, 24 hours before Foster acknowledge here.
Question: Wonder what the Dems think of Foster now?
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Republican Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has enlisted a former Democratic political operative to help develop his strategy for fighting to preserve new education laws that weaken teacher negotiating power and emphasize online learning. The governor has vowed publicly to do everything in his power to guarantee the measures aren't rejected by voters in November. The battle over the reforms deeply divided Republicans and Democrats during the 2011 session. Now, Otter's staff has brought on John Foster to serve as an informal adviser leading up to the referendum. The decision, which Foster confirmed Tuesday, may surprise some. Foster is a past executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party and was campaign manager for former Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick. Foster says the education reforms aren't about partisan politics, but about improving schools. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner; you can read Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey's column about the the move here.
State schools chief Tom Luna told lawmakers, “The next step is implementing a one-to-one ratio of mobile computing devices to students and teachers in every public high school in Idaho. This is a critical step in making sure every student has equal access to the best education opportunities.” He said the devices will be demonstrated to lawmakers at a reception at the State Department of Education tomorrow afternoon. “The device has endless possibilities in every classroom,” he said. “It becomes the textbook in every classroom, the calculator in math, the research tool in science, the word processor in English, and it's the portal to a world of information and knowledge.”
The “one-to-one devices,” meaning every student has one, will start being distributed to students in the fall of 2013, under the Students Come First phase-in schedule, with a third of high schools getting them each year. He said his 38-member technology task force recommended that the devices be laptop computers, not tablets or other devices. “An overwhelming number of our schools want these devices,” Luna said; so far, three-quarters of high schools have requested to be in the first third to get them. “They want to participate now, not later,” he said.
Idaho's “Students Come First” school reform laws have been in effect for about nine months, state schools chief Tom Luna told the House and Senate education committees this afternoon. “Since these laws passed, my staff and I have worked diligently with local school districts, and the organizations that represent them, to implement these laws successfully statewide,” he said.
Among the law's provisions: That teacher union negotiations with school districts take place in open meetings. Luna said that's been a success. “People on both sides of the negotiating table have told me these discussions were more civil being held in open public meetings,” he said. “Master agreements were signed on time and in place before the school year began.” The new laws also limited teacher contract negotiations solely to pay and benefits; Luna said other issues that used to be part of negotiations, like school schedules, are now part of school districts' policies or employee handbooks.
Luna also touted the performance-pay bonus plan included in the law, and emphasized that under his budget proposal for next year, regular teacher salary funds wouldn't be cut to pay for that, as Students Come First requires, because he's calling for shifting other, additional funds to offset those cuts.
State schools Supt. Tom Luna said there's strong interest in being among the first third of schools to join the new “one-to-one” laptop computer program, in which every high school student would get a computer; his budget request includes $2.5 million for that next year. “Just as it is in every other part of our lives, we recognize that technology is no longer a 'nice-to-have' tool in the classroom. It is an essential tool,” Luna said. He's asked schools and districts to send letters of interest if they want to be in the first third; so far, he's gotten 73 letters representing 139 schools and more than 57,000 students - that's two-thirds of the state's high school students/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Wouldn't you want a free laptop, too?
Idaho’s controversial new school reform laws gutted teacher associations’ collective bargaining powers, but local union leaders say they can still work effectively with their district administration to help shape policies. “This (legislation) basically said to districts that if you don’t want to work with teachers in these areas, you can say by law you don’t have to do it anymore,” Boise Education Association President Andrew Rath said. “But I think they’ve found that districts want to work with the teachers.” Association leaders Sam Stone of Caldwell and Luke Franklin of Meridian agreed. “We can always talk to our district,” Franklin said. “Our relationship isn’t really ‘us against them’”/Kristin Rodine, Idaho Statesman. More here.
Question: Is the Idaho Education Association still much of a force in Idaho?