Darrel Deide, who chairs a PAC loyal to Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, says Idaho lawmakers should re-enact many of the reforms rejected by voters last month, but employ an interim task force to take on the most controversial issues and report to the 2014 Legislature.
In an essay he sent me Sunday, the longtime former Caldwell school superintendent and chairman of Idahoans for Choice in Education offers the greatest detail yet about how pro-reform forces may proceed.
Early this month, Gov. Butch Otter said he will make reform proposals to the 2013 Legislature and cited a private poll conducted for another pro-Luna PAC, Educations Voters of Idaho, which Otter said demonstrated public support for parts of Propositions 1, 2 and 3.
Luna also has said the voter rejection of the laws he authored was a "bump in the road" and that he'll make another run at reform. But neither Luna or Otter have said what they have in mind.
Deide, a former state senator who now lives in New Meadows, did get specific.
Deide writes that Luna "probably tried to do too much too fast," but said some measures are important enough and broadly supported.
"I agree we will have to 'slow down' and be very attentive to the process," writes Deide. But slowing down does not mean putting a hold on every aspect of school improvement for a full year, which would mean that it would be at least 2 full years before any improvement could be seen in our schools. Two full years is a lifetime of high school graduates who will be denied the quality education that they deserve."
Deide ticked off a list of what should happen in 2013: wireless connections in every school; a computer for every teacher, along with training; online college credits at state expense; charter schools run by Idaho colleges and universities; and "some 'baby steps' in the area of teacher accountability and collective bargaining."
Deide suggests deferring until 2014 limits on collective bargaining by teachers, teacher tenure, performance pay, laptops for all students and an online class requirement for graduation.
In Luna's successful 2010 re-election campaign, Deide's PAC received $25,000 from K12 Inc., which was spent on independent advertising to help Luna. K12 operates the Idaho Virtual Academy, which has about 3,000 students supported by taxpayers. All told, K12, its employees and major stockholders spent about $44,000 supporting Luna.
Deide's full essay follows:
The media reported recently that Governor Otter is in favor of continuing the effort to reform our Idaho school system. He had cited a recent poll that indicated that Idahoans in general were in favor of many of the components of the recent reform efforts that failed at the polls last November. Superintendent Luna also is in favor of advancing some school reform legislation in the next legislative session, calling the recent defeat of propositions 1,2 and 3 as a “bump in the road.”
However, the founders of the political action committee, “Idaho Parents and Teachers Together,” Mike Lanza and Maria Greeley, see it much differently. They are saying “not so fast.” They are suggesting a broad based task force be appointed to develop a new and innovative school reform program to be presented to the 2014 Legislature. Translated, they believe that with a new task force they might be able to avoid their real issues--that of collective bargaining and teacher tenure, and perhaps derail the school reform movement entirely.
Never mind that, for the past three years, we had that broad based committee developing a school reform program. It was the Idaho Education Alliance, established by Governor Otter, and it was the alliance’s recommendations that became the “heart” of the three propositions.
However, that “Alliance,” which did have representation of the teacher’s union the IEA, did not do a very good job of bringing along all of the education stakeholders as they developed their final recommendations and Superintendent Luna probably tried to do too much too fast. I am sure that if they had to do it over again all would have proceeded a bit differently.
I agree we will have to “slow down” and be very attentive to the process. But slowing down does not mean putting a hold on every aspect of school improvement for a full year, which would mean that it would be at least 2 full years before any improvement could be seen in our schools. Two full years is a lifetime of high school graduates who will be denied the quality education that they deserve.
That is simply not acceptable as there are aspects of the recent reform efforts that do have wide support and they should be dealt with in the 2013 legislative session. What are they? In Propositions 1, 2 & 3 there were 16 specific reform measures, and without doubt, some were very controversial. Let’s take the most controversial off the “table” for now and let an interim task-force deal specifically with those hot-button issues.
What does that leave for the 2013 legislative session? Quite a bit really: Let’s be sure that every school has wireless Internet accessibility, and that every teacher has, as does every legislator, a laptop or similar computing device and the necessary training. Let’s make sure that our high school students are able to earn, via online instruction, college credits at the expense of the state.
Since our charter schools have great support in Idaho, let’s give our state-supported colleges and universities the option of sponsoring their own charter high schools. Finally, we can take some “baby steps” in the area of teacher accountability and collective bargaining. Almost everyone agrees that the contract negotiations should take place in open public meetings and that contracts or negotiated agreements should be readily available online. Further, that those agreements should be only for one year and that the union must show they represent at least 50 percent of the employee group.
Even with approval of these items by the 2013 legislature there are still remaining some tough issues to be resolved. We still have on the “table,” the limitation of negotiations to salary and benefits, teacher tenure, parents’ role in evaluation of teachers and principals, staff reduction criteria, performance pay for teachers, laptops for kids and online credit requirement for high school graduation. To address those issues the legislature could create a qualified committee with the specific charge of developing recommended legislation in regard to those issues for the 2014 Legislature to consider.
This approach would keep reforms moving forward instead of stuck in a delay and retreat cycle.
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