Idaho Voters Resoundingly Reject Propositions 1, 2 And 3

A school kid in Indiana works at a computer.
Credit Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

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.


In 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 1

Proposition 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 2

Proposition 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 3

Proposition 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.
Malate269 / Wikimedia Commons

Idaho’s Task Force for Improving Education released its final recommendations Friday. Governor Butch Otter asked the State Board of Education to create the group last December after voters rejected the education laws known as Students Come First.  The 31 member task force was made up of representatives from several education groups.

Their recommendations include a unanimous recommendation to raise minimum teacher salaries from $31,000 to $40,000.  Plus they want to restructure the career ladder so experienced teachers could also make more money. 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s Task Force for Improving Education starts a whirlwind tour of the state this week. Members have been meeting since January to find education reforms with broad support. Governor Butch Otter asked the State Board of Education to put the group together after voters repealed a series of education laws last November. Now the task force wants public feedback.

Updated: Several measures working through Idaho’s legislature echo parts of the laws known as Students Come First. Those laws were overturned by voters last November through ballot propositions. (You can read a detailed description of what was in those here.) We’ve put together a rundown of bills that reflect parts of Students Come First which may pass or have already received lawmaker approval.

Marlith / Flickr

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.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho lawmakers didn’t stop for President’s Day Monday. Gun rights, education and state employee paychecks  are all issues that will come up this week.  Betsy Russell writes the Eye on Boise blog for the Spokesman Review. We caught up with Russell to get her take on how this week will play out at the statehouse. Russell says she's watching the debate over raises for state employees today.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

It’s a busy week for Idaho lawmakers.  Education, budgets, health insurance exchanges – these issues will all come up in the next few days.  Betsy Russell writes the Eye on Boise Blog for the Spokesman Review.  She’s been covering the Legislature, as she does every year.  Samantha Wright caught up with her Monday afternoon after the Senate rejected Governor Butch Otter’s candidate for the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.  We sat in an empty committee room to talk about the week ahead, starting with the Senate Education Committee.

The Idaho Education Association (IEA) Monday released a set of recommendations for state and local policy makers. During the two year debate over Idaho’s Students Come First laws, which voters repealed in November, the statewide teachers union received frequent criticism for opposing the laws without detailing an alternate plan for school improvement. The IEA’s new document contains more than 80 policy recommendations in nine categories. 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

A new group begins work Friday to improve Idaho’s education system. Governor Butch Otter called for its creation after November’s repeal of education laws known as Students Come First.

The first challenge for the 31 people on the Education Improvement Task Force is getting along. Many of the individuals and the groups they represent have strong animosities toward each other. But one member, Idaho schools’ superintendent Tom Luna says it can work.

The task force meant to develop recommendations to improve education in Idaho could be called a team of rivals. Many of its 31 members have squared off, sometimes bitterly, in the past two years over the Students Come First education laws. Voters repealed those laws last November through three ballot propositions.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho voters' decision to strike down three education laws in November raised a question. What happens to the money that was meant to pay for things like classroom technology and hiring more math and science teachers?

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The leaders of the campaign that defeated Idaho’s Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in last month’s election are concerned that the laws could come back. They’re speaking out against efforts to resurrect the education overhaul rejected by voters.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Idaho Governor Butch Otter spent Wednesday afternoon discussing the coming legislative session at a meeting of the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho. Otter told the crowd lawmakers would revisit the education laws voters rejected last month. That’s despite the fact that Propositions 1, 2, and 3 were defeated by wide margins.

“I do believe that we will see parts of Proposition 1, the management plan, proposition 2, the pay for performance, and proposition 3, the high tech,” Otter said. “I think you’ll see parts and pieces of all of those come back at us.”   

Images_Of_Money / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s Department of Education says the repeal of the Students Come First education laws means a $23 million cut for the state’s schools. It took the department time to come up with that number after voters rejected the laws early this month through ballot propositions 1, 2 and 3.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho high school students won't have to take online classes to graduate. The State Board of Education repealed a rule Monday that required them.

Voters rejected the Students Come First laws on November 6 but one of those laws had a twist. It required the board of education to set the online class requirement, which it did. That requirement was still in place despite the laws' repeal.  The Idaho Legislature still has to sign off but, board spokesperson Marilyn Whitney says students should consider it gone.

Kids In School
Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Idaho school Superintendent Tom Luna said this week the voter repeal of his education laws would mean a financial hit to districts. Today his department released an estimate of that impact. It says the Nov.