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A school kid in Indiana works at a computer.With the results tallied from Idaho’s 967 precincts, voters clearly said no to Propositions 1, 2 and 3.More than 645,000 votes were cast in each of the Propositions. Each of the propositions failed by at least 15 percent of the vote. Proposition 3, the measure that corresponds to giving each high school student a laptop, failed by the largest margin, with 66 percent of voters rejecting it.Now that voters have weighed in on the trio of election laws that were passed in 2011, it’s up to lawmakers and stakeholders to determine what happens next.BackgroundIn 2011 the Idaho Legislature passed a package of three laws which made sweeping changes to the state’s education system.The laws were introduced and championed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and are known as Students Come First, though opponents call them the Luna Laws.The laws have been controversial in Idaho, with the state’s largest public teacher union, Democrats and some Republicans condemning them. School administrators and boards have been split on their support. Idaho’s second largest school district in Boise has voiced its opposition to the laws.The three laws will be split up into Proposition 1, Proposition 2, and Proposition 3. Here’s a breakdown of what each law contains:Proposition 1Proposition 1 corresponds to 2011’s Senate Bill 1108 and deals with labor relations. A ‘yes’ vote will keep SB 1108 on the books, a ‘no’ vote will repeal the law. Here are the details:District superintendents, school administrators, and teachers get an annual evaluation. At least 50 percent of it must be based on measurable student growth. Teachers’ and principals’ evaluations must include parent input.Teachers and school administrators get one or two year contracts. A category of contracts for experienced teachers that renewed automatically from year to year barring misconduct is eliminated. These renewable contracts will stay in place if signed before 2011.Steps that had to be taken to fire a teacher or not bring him or her back for the next school year are eliminated such as providing a written statement of the reasons for the decision.School districts no longer have to prove a financial emergency before reducing teacher numbers. School boards can reduce teacher numbers at their discretion but cannot consider seniority when deciding who to eliminate.Principals can decide which teachers come to their schools.Teachers are encouraged but not required to purchase liability insurance and districts must provide information about insurance providers.The state’s early retirement incentive program for teachers is eliminated.Local education organizations (labor unions) must represent a majority (more than 50 percent) of a district’s teachers in order to engage in collective bargaining. Unions must prove annually that they represent a majority of a district’s teachers.Contract negotiations can only cover compensation, defined as salary and benefits. Negotiations must be done in public meetings.If a district does not have a union that represents a majority of teachers the school board will set compensation.If no contract agreement is reached through collective bargaining by June 10 of each year, the school board will set compensation.Proposition 2Proposition 2 corresponds to Senate Bill 1110 and institutes a pay-for-performance plan. A ‘yes’ vote will keep SB 1110 on the books, a ‘no’ vote will repeal the law.Bonuses are available for student academic growth measured by statewide standardized tests given each spring. Bonuses would go to all administrators and teachers at a school with a certain amount of improvement in scores.All teachers and administrators at a school could get a bonus if the school’s average score on the spring test is in the top 50 percent of schools statewide.Local school boards will create systems by which teachers and administrators can get bonuses based on other performance measures such as graduation rates, advanced placement classes taken and parental involvement.Teachers can get bonuses for working in hard to fill positions. At least every two years the State Board of Education will determine which positions should be considered ‘hard to fill’ and rank them based on need. Local boards can choose from the state board’s list which positions are hardest to fill in their districts.If a district can’t find a qualified teacher for a hard to fill position it can use some of the bonus money to train a teacher for the position.A district can designate up to 25 percent of its teachers to get bonuses for working extra hours in leadership roles. Those could include activities like peer mentoring, curriculum development, grant writing and earning a “Master Teacher” designation.Proposition 3Proposition 3 corresponds to Senate Bill 1184 and deals with technology and funding. A ‘yes’ vote will keep SB 1184 on the books, a ‘no’ vote will repeal the law.A laptop computer will be provided for all high school teachers and students. That will happen over four years beginning with teachers in fall 2012.As determined by the Idaho Board of Education, students must take two semester-long online classes to graduate.Parents can enroll students in any qualified online course without district permission.High schools will get more money to help pay for the costs of providing more math and science classes to meet new graduation requirements.SB 1184 Creates a formula for allocating money for technology. That includes mobile computers for high school students, wireless broadband service in high schools, and professional development on using technology in class.Creates a formula for allocating money to districts that takes online classes into account.Increases the amount districts can spend to get instruction from other districts or provide virtual education.The Idaho Department of Education will post a fiscal report card for each school district on its website.Each school district must post its annual budget and master labor agreement on its website. That’s in addition to several pieces of financial information districts were already required to post.A district can employ fewer teachers than it gets money for (up to 10 percent starting in 2014) without losing the money it gets for the unfilled positions.Raises the minimum teacher salary by $355 to $30,000 a year.Eliminates a $2,000, five year bonus for “Master Teacher” designation.If a student has completed all graduation requirements by the beginning of her senior year the state will pay for her to take up to 36 college credits while still being registered as a high school student. She can also take college credits in her last semester if she meets graduation requirements by the end of the first semester.Public post-secondary schools in Idaho can operate charter high schools.

Voter Rejected Education Laws Come Back In Idaho Legislature, Some Without Opposition

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Four months ago Idaho voters repealed three education laws through ballot initiatives. Now nearly a dozen provisions from those laws are working through the Idaho legislature or have already passed.

Idaho residents voted on three propositions to overturn the laws known as Students Come First. But the laws contained dozens of provisions on things like teacher labor relations and increasing classroom technology. Those who pushed for repeal say voters rejected all aspects, period. That’s how Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association (IEA) sees it.

“It’s been disingenuous to bring back pieces of Students Come First, and then basically claim that Idaho voters didn’t mean to repeal this piece of the law,” she say.  

The IEA is the state wide teachers’ union. It was the chief opponent of the laws and put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the repeal effort. Cyr says there probably are parts the majority of voters would like but it’s impossible to know what those are.

The Idaho Schools Boards Association is pushing several labor bills in the legislature that contain elements of the old laws. For example there’s a requirement that contract negotiations be finished by June or school boards sets the terms. Karen Echeverria with the school boards association says that’s necessary because districts have to have their budgets in place by July.

“And teacher salaries make up 80 to 90 percent of that budget. So we’ve got to know by the end of June what those are going to be,” Echeverria says. “And if we can’t come to agreement, someone has to make a decision and we believe that should be the elected school board members in their districts.”

Teachers and their supporters lambast the school boards for resurrecting that provision. But they’re OK with bringing back other parts of the laws voters killed.

For example there’s been little opposition to requiring districts to post budgets and labor agreements online. And the teachers union itself sponsored a bill to require districts and teachers to negotiate in open meetings. Mike Lanza was one of the heads of the campaign to overturn the laws.

“If you can bring you know, something up that all the major stakeholders agree on I don’t see a reason not to tackle it this year,” Lanza says. “And having negotiations in open meeting is one that is completely uncontroversial.”

Part of the reason Students Come First opponents aren’t fighting everything may be that they’re tired. That’s what David Adler, head of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State says. He says the Students Come First repeal was historic but it took a lot of money, time and energy. Or maybe, he says, it’s just practicality.

“There may be a recognition on the part of those opponents that changes are going to be made and therefor it may be in their interest to come to the bargaining table so to speak to try to shape the final outcome of these provisions,” Adler says.

The teachers union and the school boards association have negotiated on labor bills this legislative session. And some parts revived from Students Come First have been modified to become something teachers can live with.

Adler says it can’t be assumed voters liked any parts of the laws they repealed. But he interpreted comments from the governor and others to mean that nothing from Students Come First would be revisited until voters were asked for their input. 

“But of course that has not occurred,” he says. “The legislature has moved very quickly now to renew some provisions of those propositions.”

Idaho’s State Board of Education did put a task force together to study education improvement. But the taskforce chair told the group at its first meeting they would not deal with labor issues.

Someone who may have some inkling as to what voters think is governor Butch Otter. He says a survey conducted after last fall’s election shows that voters liked parts of the laws. The survey was done by a group that campaigned to keep the laws in place. Results have not been released. Adler says making the survey public is an essential first step to interpreting the voters’ message.  

“There will always be a question about the credibility of the survey, but we can’t even begin to address the results reached in the governor’s private survey until that survey is released,” he says.  “So the time has arrived to release that survey so that Idahoans can have answers to their questions.”

In response to a request to see the survey, a spokesman for governor Otter said the governor does not have a copy and therefore cannot make the results public. The head of the organization which commissioned the poll also refused to release it.

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio

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