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Why Idaho Teachers Will Get Bonuses Regardless of What Voters Say


One of the big questions surrounding the Students Come First referendum has been what will happen to teacher bonuses if voters reject the laws on November 6th.  The laws institute bonuses for teachers for things like improved student test scores and working in positions that are difficult to fill. Now Idaho’s Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says those bonuses will go out regardless of the outcome of the vote.

The Spokesman Review quotes Ysursa saying the election results don’t become law immediately. They first have to be officially certified. That won’t happen, he says, until November 21.  Meanwhile the law states the bonuses must go out before November 15.

The timing of the bonuses has become a political football of sorts. School Superintendent Tom Luna wants voters to keep the laws in place. Earlier this month he said, “Rejecting these laws in November means that our schools will receive a reduction in funding in the middle of the school year. It’ll be very disruptive. The money that’s supposed to be distributed for bonuses, it can’t be distributed because we don’t have the legal authority to do it.”

Opponents of the laws say Luna has been trying to scare teachers into voting to keep them. In light of the Secretary of State’s revelation Luna is reconsidering his stance. In a statement to KBSX the Superintendent says he's still consulting with counsel on what Idaho law says about the dates involved with bonus distribution. Luna says he's committed to doing everything legally in his power to give teachers the bonuses they’ve earned. 

Even though the Idaho Education Association wants the law that creates the pay for performance system to go away, the teacher’s union has been arguing that for the last year teachers have done the work and should get the bonuses no matter what.

Thursday the state Department of Education released preliminary data on which teachers would get bonuses. Luna held a conference call with district superintendents on steps to finalize the list.

Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst confirms the bonuses will go out before the referendum vote is certified. He says the Secretary of State may receive pressure to move the certification meeting to an earlier date but that would be too difficult.

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Tom Luna's full statement:

“We are aware the laws would not be officially repealed until the Board of Canvassers meets. We continue to work with the Attorney General’s office to ensure we not only have the legal authority at the state to distribute these bonuses, but our local school districts also have the legal authority at the local level to pay bonuses to the Idaho teachers who earned and deserve these bonuses. As our conversations with legal counsel have highlighted, the law contains multiple dates: November 15 as well as December 15. I have been fighting for better compensation for Idaho teachers through base salaries and pay-for-performance for 15 years now, and no one wants to pay these bonuses more than I do. I will find any way legally possible to distribute this money to Idaho’s teachers, not just this year but every year. The only reason we are having these discussions today and facing uncertainty regarding this additional pay for teachers is because the teachers’ union put Proposition 2 on the ballot. They are the only group that opposes pay-for-performance, and while their reasons for opposing it continue to change, their opposition remains the same. The fact is that if the union is successful in repealing Proposition 2, Idaho teachers will not have the opportunity to earn up to $8,000 a year in bonuses.”

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