THE MESSY JOB OF SCHOOL CONTRACTS
The Times-News, Twin Falls
One change mandated by the passage of Students Come First laws last year was the requirement that teacher contract negotiations be held in open session. Prior to this, the average taxpayer — including almost all teachers — discovered the results of those negotiations later rather than sooner. Taxpayers learned of the details following ratification; union-member teachers just prior to being asked to vote.
The change to holding all negotiations in open session is a very positive outcome of the legislation.
The impact of other portions of the collective bargaining provisions of Students Come First is more difficult to calculate. The elimination of continuing contracts — otherwise known as “tenure” — has helped create a situation described by Blaine County School District assistant superintendent John Blackman as a “sense of insecurity in the profession.” It is also partially responsible for a drop in union membership among teachers throughout Idaho.
One of the central provisions of this law was to limit collective bargaining to teacher salaries and benefits. Period. It was thought that this limitation would reduce the time spent in negotiation. And while negotiations proceeded expeditiously and resulted in agreements in Twin Falls and Blaine County, such is not the case in Cassia County, or Kimberly, or the larger districts in Caldwell and Nampa.
Even in districts in which agreement has been reached, the new collective bargaining law has done little to advance the degree to which teachers and administrators relate and communicate. And when the final resolution for districts that reach an impasse in negotiations still allows district administrators to impose their “last best offer” on teachers, the benefit of the collective bargaining tenant of this law is difficult to see for state educators or state education.
When it comes to really putting students first, the impact of last year’s collective bargaining change is far from being the panacea that State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna would like you to believe.
SIMPSON DOUBLES DOWN ON A BAD IDEA
Post Register, Idaho Falls
Jeers to Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who last week doubled down on a mistake he made last year. A year ago, Simpson attached a rider to a must-pass spending bill that set aside a decade's worth of planning and research about how best to address Idaho’s declining bighorn sheep population.
Idaho’s bighorn population has been cut in half over the last three decades. The culprit is a pneumonia bighorns contract when they come into contact with domestic sheep. A three-year process to separate the wild and domestic sheep was devised for the Payette National Forest. Simpson’s rider halted that — good news for the Soulen Livestock Company, which is partially owned by Margaret Soulen-Hinson, president of the American Sheep Association and the sister-in-law of Lt. Gov. Brad Little.
However, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ordered that the Payette plan be fully implemented. At this point, Simpson, who has worked extensively to protect Idaho’s Boulder-White Cloud range, could have left well enough alone and allowed the final 14,000 acres of sheep grazing in the Payette to end. Instead, Simpson attached a new rider to the Interior appropriations bill. If it passes, Idaho’s bighorns will continue to mingle with their domestic cousins, ensuring a continued decline in their numbers.
We have a few questions for our normally pragmatic congressman: What’s the end game here? Simpson’s approach will result in a few things — more die-offs and litigation. Also, why is Simpson getting so deeply involved in an issue that is predominant in the First Congressional District, which is represented by fellow Republican Raul Labrador? Finally, why is Simpson using the backdoor route of attaching a rider to a budget bill instead of giving this issue the full congressional discussion it so obviously deserves?