Dredging my notebook from Monday's meeting of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry I find this:
Gov. Butch Otter asked the state's biggest business lobby to help sustain the victory won by Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna in passing what Luna calls "Students Come First." The three measures passed by the Legislature in 2011 are subject to voter approval or rejection in November, after petitioners gathered over 200,000 signatures on three referendum petitions.
"There are a lot of things that we have accomplished and those things can not be pushed aside," Otter told the group in Sun Valley. "Idaho became one of the first states to reform its education."
Otter said part of the spur for the reform came from business leaders who approached him during his first gubernatorial campaign in 2006. "Your sector came to me and said, 'Butch, we can't hire the product you're turning out of high school because we have to give them classes in remedial math or remedial English or they're just not ready to go to work.'"
In 2011, Otter continued, "With Tom's leadership and your help and a lot of input from you folks we were able to reform an education system...We accomplished that with your help. Now, we need your help to retain that."
The reforms include a merit pay system that is expected to provide bonuses to up to 85 percent of teachers, a mandate for online classes to graduate, laptops for every high school student, barring continuing contracts for teachers and limiting collective bargaining for teachers unions to wages and benefits.
An campaign organized by Otter and Luna, YES! For Idaho Education, formed early this month to raise money and advocate yes votes on the three referendums.
Otter said he takes heart from the defeat suffered by labor unions in Wisconsin, which failed to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Walker scaled back collective bargaining rights for all public employees, excepting police and firefighters, but easily retained his job.
"Let's go forward with success," Otter concluded. "Scott Walker started a pretty good trend that I'd like to see continued here in Idaho."
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