Friday, March 20, 2009

Bad education legislation: the sequel?

The week before last, it appeared that a bipartisan panel had drafted acceptable compromise education legislation to help Idaho through the economic downturn. Here's a post that Rep. Liz Chavez, a member of the panel, wrote March 11. Now, however, it appears that many of the earlier bills' worst aspects have resurfaced. Here's an email Rep. Chavez sent last night:

Well, just when I think that the Idaho Legislature and the process of government can't get any more does.

After working for a month and a day, meeting every day at 7:00am to work out legislation (HB252) that provides tools and procedure in the case of a catastrophic economic emergency that give the state and local school districts flexibility, today we heard new legislation that begs the question,"What are we doing?"

The Chair of the House Education Committee Rep. Bob Nonini, introduced proposed legislation reducing the state's reimbursement to our local school districts from 85 percent down to 50 percent. This will effectively take away any and all field trips for curriculum enhancement. However, because athletics is not reimbursed, that will not be impacted.....but this may have spillover effects that we can't see right now.

There will be two more pieces of proposed legislation presented on Monday. One will be to cut the Early Retirement for Teachers in half for this year and eliminate it entirely in 2010. This plan doesn't cost money, but in fact saves money as veteran teachers, who are often at the end of the salary schedule are replaced by new teachers who are on the lower end of the salary schedule.

The other piece is a plan to freeze the steps and lanes, meaning the years of experience and education, into which all teachers fit to be paid.

My frustration and dismay in all of this is that the legislation we worked on so hard for over a month, was that every group that would be impacted by this legislation were sitting at the same table and we came to agreement on the tools to use in an economic emergency. So the question has to be, "Why do we need these pieces of legislation? Why can't we send the funding to the school districts and let the duly elected Board of Trustees and the local teacher's association work it out?"

So here's the deal. I need your help. I need every one of you to call the Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna at the Department of Education, the phone number is 1-800-432-4601 and register your concern, or Representative Bob Nonini at the House of Representatives 1-800-626-0471.I would also encourage you to email your concerns to Rep. Nonini at and to anyone else that you think might have some influence on the course of this legislation.