Paying Idaho's teachers: a big bit of unfinished Students Come First business

Here's a draft of Friday's lead editorial:

When it came to passing Students Come First, state Superintendent Tom Luna’s far-reaching and hastily assembled K-12 overhaul, Idaho’s powers that be certainly figured out how to move quickly.

Now, they need to move quickly again — and get $39 million of merit pay into the hands of the teachers who earned it.
The bonuses are among the vestiges of Students Come First, or Propositions 1, 2 and 3. When Idaho voters summarily and overwhelmingly rejected the three laws Tuesday, they reopened the question of what becomes of these bonuses.

Timing matters.

The money is supposed to go out to school districts next week, while the merit pay law remains on the books.

The law will be voided on Nov. 21, when the Board of Canvassers meets to ratify the election results. That, of course, is mere formality, since Proposition 2, the merit pay law, lost by a margin of close to 104,000 votes.

The logistics are tricky, but there’s nothing tricky about the idea of making good on a commitment. The 2012 Legislature appropriated the money for these bonuses, knowing full well that the law was subject to a challenge at the polls. Teachers worked through the 2011-12 academic year to earn a share of the money; an estimated 85 percent of teachers qualified for bonuses averaging $2,000.

This is not like the eight-year, $180 million school laptop contract awarded in October to Hewlett-Packard. That agreement, contingent upon the passage of Proposition 3, is now void.

In the case of the bonuses, a deal was in place. Regardless of the vote on Prop 2, a deal is a deal. It’s now incumbent upon the state and the districts to distribute the money ASAP.

If one thing marked the bitter Students Come First debate — and if one thing led to the laws’ defeat this week — it was ill will. Teachers felt ignored and blindsided by Luna and his overhaul. Paying out these 2011-12 bonuses won’t make all the hard feelings dissipate, but it’s the right thing to do. Maybe it also sets the tone for what’s needed next: inclusive good-faith discussions about education reform.

What Will Luna Do?

This is going to be interesting. My bet is Luna will distribute it. I doubt he's foolish enough not to, but you never know. Unfortunately, the bonus program has so many holes in it, it is sad. Outstanding teachers at non-qualifying schools, don't qualify. Unsatisfactory teachers at qualifying schools will qualify. How demoralizing is that? It's not a fair program and stands to demoralize the good teachers we have left.

This is just tragic.

The Superintendent should distribute the funds to the individual school districts and let them do what's right.

Another reminder of why teachers need a union because politicians can be so deaf to reality.


Since it's Luna and Otter

You can almost bet money they will try to find a reason not to. They both see teachers as service workers not professionals. They will come up with some lame excuse like the taxpayers spoke loud and clear. The problem is I believe the Attorney General being a good republican will agree. Even though the money and bonus were earned before the law was overturned. We'll just have to wait and see.

the Attorney General

may be a good Republican, but like Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, has demonstrated numerous times he holds the law over party identification.

Give it to all the hard workers in Idaho that

work each day, pay their bills and taxes, and contribute to society....

Its time for entitlements for the 'small' guy....


Those hard working, tax paying teachers.

Why not give it back to the schools?

I can name 115 Idaho school districts that would love to have the money go back into their general funds so they can afford to purchase supplies and other things needed to run a school.

The problem with your general fund idea is ...

...this money was taken out of teacher salaries to create the so-called bonus money. Giving the money back to all the teachers is a fine idea, but they already spend enough of their own money on "supplies and other things needed to run the school" without taking this money from them as well.

The money wasn't "taken" out

The money wasn't "taken" out of salaries; it was just not given to them. They never had the money in the first place.

Give it to the school districts

The merit pay prop 2 was shot down, so give all of the money back to the individual school districts and they can distribute to the teachers. Don't just give it to the 85% that qualified (that's what Luna wanted), the other 15% includes many fine teachers who are deserving. Think about the teachers who work at low socioeconomic schools, or alternative schools. Chances are they are the ones not getting any of this bonus and are just as deserving. All teachers are in this together and deserve to have their money back that was held from them. Do the right thing here.

Give- yes. Accept- ?

Let's keep in mind YOU and the Statesman writers are well known for your criticism of Idaho Republicans accepting federal money when they defame the very hands that feed them.

i.e. Should Idaho accept health care reform money when they oppose ObamaCare?

This is the same argument Luna made toward Boise Schoold District publicly opposing Prop 3 and at the same time being first in line to apply for the computers.

So, if the teachers OPPOSE merit pay so much, let's see if they 100% accept the checks and bank it- and of course they will. Then you (and the Statesman) will have little to say about Idaho doing the same thing, without reminding us the teachers do/did the same thing.

No doubt about it. The pay has to be issued- it's appropriated already and the state doesn't have a choice.

Cancel the distribution as

Cancel the distribution as indicated by Idaho voters. Teachers and the IEA, NEA didn't want the law so why should they now receive what they didn't want.

And here's the problem

The money was voted on and allocated based upon the prior school year. The bonus was earned based upon the law as it stood. The fact that we the voters saw that the law upon which the bonuses were earned was bad doesn't mean they the teachers didn't earn it.

the other side of the "emergency clause"

yep. The Legislature and Tom Luna insisted on an emergency clause so the laws could be enacted right away. Well, there you go. Pay the money.

The "bonus" was earned in

The "bonus" was earned in the 2011-2012 school year, when the law was on the books. Pay up.

It won't get paid if the law that created it is gone.


I'm not stupid and I have a valid point of view.