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Eye On Boise

Party-line vote in House backs controversial teacher-contract bill

Dome over the Idaho House chamber (Betsy Z. Russell)
Dome over the Idaho House chamber (Betsy Z. Russell)

The House split along party lines this afternoon to endorse controversial charter school teacher contract legislation that’s opposed by all three major education stakeholder groups in Idaho – the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators. All 14 Democrats in the House opposed SB 1248; all Republicans who were present supported it, passing it 55-14. The bill earlier passed the Senate on a 22-13 vote with bipartisan opposition; it now goes to the governor’s desk.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, called the bill “a naked assault on collective bargaining.” She said, “We don’t pay our teachers very much. ... But the one thing that they have been able to bargain for is some measure of protection against arbitrary dismissal. … I see this leading to further recruiting problems at a time when we really can’t afford that in the profession.”

Rep. Patrick McDonald, R-Boise, spoke out in favor of the bill, saying it would give charter schools flexibility and “the ability to take up something new, innovative and productive.” He said, “There are charter schools that want this flexibility, and I don’t see the harm in allowing them to do it. ... What’s the issue? Let’s let ‘em do it, see if it’s productive, see if it’s beneficial. And if it isn’t, we can always fix it.”

Rep. John McCrostie, D-Boise, a teacher, said, “This would effectively create a junior-varsity teaching team. … It’s not in the interest of supporting our children’s school system.”

Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, the bill’s House sponsor, said, “We often hear about teachers that are leaving the state.” He said “quite often the teachers that I hear about … going to another state” are doing so to build a second retirement and “have a second salary.” Clow said, “We have to trust the local charter school boards, that they will act responsibly.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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