The bitter relationship between Tom Luna and Idaho teachers just keeps deteriorating.
The latest feud centers on — naturally — a component of the state schools superintendent’s far-reaching and hotly contested Students Come First laws.
Under Luna’s merit pay plan, some 85 percent of Idaho teachers stand to receive some kind of bonus — on Nov. 15, and only if Idaho voters ratify the merit pay plan in a Nov. 6 referendum. Luna’s office says state law will not allow the state Education Department to hand out the $38.7 million any sooner.
The response from Idaho Education Association president Penni Cyr was pretty much to be expected. “The state department is holding this money hostage," Cyr told the Associated Press. “The teachers earned it, the Legislature appropriated it last year and they intended it to be used for teacher compensation.”
This isn’t a unique situation.
High school teachers and principals are expected to receive laptops by late October or early November — the first phase of a multiyear plan to equip staff and students with portable devices. But if voters reject the Students Come First technology law, employees will probably have to give back the laptops.
Idaho’s education is stuck in a strange limbo, as the state tries to overhaul its K-12 system in increments, while the teachers’ union tries to convince voters to reject these laws.
The Luna-IEA relationship, one of dysfunction and distrust, can’t be healthy for education in this state. And things have been a long time crumbling.
The friction certainly came to a head in 2010, when the IEA went all-out in supporting former Boise schools superintendent Stan Olson, Luna’s Democratic opponent. Then Luna sprung the overhaul on teachers with little notice, jamming it through the 2011 Legislature and further poisoning his relationship with educators.
The irony is that the merit pay plan was the one component of Students Come First that Luna negotiated with the IEA. The parties discussed the idea after a Luna merit pay plan failed in the Senate in 2008, and Luna incorporated the ideas into his larger Students Come First initiative. Those negotiations occurred at a time — probably long gone — when these two adversaries could actually, and occasionally, talk with each other and not at each other.