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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Otter cites poll showing support for portions of Props 1, 2, 3

BOISE – Leaders of the campaign to defeat Idaho’s controversial school reform laws are warning against bringing back pieces of the voter-rejected laws in Idaho’s upcoming legislative session.

In a speech last week, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said he’d recently seen a statewide poll that convinced him voters actually want some parts of the failed measures.

“I believe we’re going to have in this legislative session a revisit of Propositions 1, 2 and 3 or parts and pieces thereof,” Otter told an audience of about 400 at the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho annual conference. He said the poll showed there were parts of the propositions that people liked.

Countered Mike Lanza, of opposition group Vote No Props 123, “We just had the ultimate poll.”

Lanza and Maria Greeley said in a joint statement, “Any attempt to resurrect these policies would demonstrate an extreme disregard for the will of voters, and we will not stand by quietly and accept it.”

In the Nov. 6 election, Idaho voters rejected Proposition 1, removing most collective bargaining rights from Idaho teachers, by 57.1 percent; Proposition 2, instituting a merit-pay bonus system, by 58 percent; and Proposition 3, requiring laptop computers for every Idaho high school student along with a new focus on online learning, by 66.7 percent.

The poll that Otter referenced was conducted by Education Voters of Idaho, a group that funneled secret contributions into statewide TV ads in favor of the failed propositions and only revealed its donors after a court ordered it to do so. Though promoted as a group representing Idaho parents, it turned out to be funded largely by billionaires including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Albertsons heir Joe Scott.

John Foster, executive director of Education Voters of Idaho, said Friday that he won’t release the poll or any information about it. “It was just something we did post-election that we privately shared with a couple of people and didn’t have any intention of making public,” he said.

Otter told the Associated Taxpayers group that he’s working on putting together a 33-member stakeholder group, overseen by the state Board of Education, to explore school reform issues and make recommendations.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and the lead legislative sponsor of the rejected laws, has suggested small pieces should be revived, such as a requirement within Proposition 1 that school district labor negotiations be held in open session.

But Lanza and Greeley said Propositions 1, 2 and 3 shouldn’t be the starting point.

“Let’s go back to ground zero – we should not be talking about bringing back laws that were overwhelmingly rejected,” Lanza said.

He and Greeley called for the 2013 Legislature to address only the school funding issues brought about by the laws’ repeal, to keep school districts “whole” in their funding for the current school year. Lawmakers must address that, because the laws’ repeal leaves $22.4 million within the current year’s public school budget unallocated – because it was tabbed for programs that are no longer authorized.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna warned the state Board of Education at its meeting in Coeur d’Alene this week that lawmakers may try to grab that money for other uses.

Lanza and Greeley urged against any such moves. “We hear murmurs that some legislators cynically want to ‘teach a lesson’ to voters who rejected the Luna laws by not giving schools the money promised to them,” they said. “Voters will hold accountable those legislators who willfully damage our schools out of a desire to execute some political vendetta.”