The Idaho Education Association says teachers are fleeing the profession in part because of controversial reforms enacted by the 2011 Legislature, which Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna calls "Students Come First." Voters will decide whether to retain the laws Nov. 6, with the IEA leading the campaign for repeal.
Last month, the Associated Press reported that nearly 1,300 Idaho teachers quit last year, nearly twice normal attrition. Luna attributed the spike to the economy, saying some teachers are leaving to follow spouses who have landed new jobs outside Idaho.
The request to study the issue came from Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, shortly after the AP report.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee voted late Monday to direct the independent, nonpartisan Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE) to conduct the K-12 teacher study, along with four other studies for 2012.
Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, a key backer of Students Come First, asked the OPE for the study on behalf of his committee. The study could identify challenges and opportunities for recruitment and project future needs for educators, according to OPE. Also, Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, asked that study include an analysis of class size and student‐teacher ratios.
In Goedde's Feb. 22 letter requesting the study, he wrote, "Some reports suggest teachers are moving to states where pay is more lucrative; other reports state union membership is falling; while others suggest educators are staying in their classrooms longer because of the effects of the recession on their pensions. There is concern that our universities are not graduating educators in the numbers to fill positions likely to open in teaching ranks in the near future."
OPE's goal is to complete the work on all five studies by January 2013, but some reports could be completed sooner.
OPE Director Rakesh Mohan said Tuesday he hasn't yet decided the schedule for release of the reports, which typically begins in the fall. Several factors weigh on that decision, he said, including whether the requester of the study or JLOC sought early release. Mohan said no such request was made for the teacher study. He also said he needs to consider the political implications of the timing of release, either before or after the Nov. 6 election.
"I have to give it some thought," Mohan said Tuesday. "I will decide on my own. We maintain our independence once the committee has chosen the study topics."
The other four studies set for 2012 are:
# State employee compensation models and employment barriers
Budget committee members Sens. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, and Reps. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum and Shirley Ringo, R-Moscow, asked for a study on executive branch employee compensation and turnover. They are concerned about the number of lost positions in the past four years and the number of employees leaving for higher paying jobs in the private sector. A study of best compensation models and a list of employment barriers could help the state effectively retain employees. The requesters asked that the study be completed in October or November.
# Comparison of state laws and policies for traditional and charter public schools
Senate budget committee vice chair Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, requested a review of state laws and policies for traditional and charter public schools. A study could look at the differences and outcomes in statute, funding of facilities, and auditing standards between traditional schools and charter schools.
# Best practices for state contract management
Reps. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, Fred Wood, R-Burley, and Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, requested a study of best practices for contract management. Best practices could help the state develop a strong framework for contract development and management as well as vendor management, particularly since the state may be contracting soon for projects such as K–12 technology, Medicaid managed care, and health insurance exchange for Medicaid readiness.
# Analysis and comparison of Idaho’s tax rates with other states.
Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee Chairman Tim Corder, R-Mountain Home, on behalf of his committee, asked for a weighted quantitative analysis of Idaho’s tax rates as compared with other states. He said an independent, objective comparison would help the committee determine whether Idaho companies can compete with other states.
JLOC, with eight members, is equally divided between the two political parties and the two chambers of the Legislature. The co-chairmen are Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, and Rep. Cliff Bayer, R-Boise.
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