Idaho voters will find three education reform propositions on their November ballots addressing the Students Come First legislation passed by the Idaho Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter.
The first, Proposition 1, reforms collective bargaining/negotiations between your local school board and local teacher unions. The Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA), representing over 560 locally elected school board members and over 250 charter school board members, has long championed collective bargaining reforms. ISBA members have passed resolutions and adopted positions urging reform legislation.
ISBA supports Proposition 1 and strongly encourages your YES vote.
ISBA asks for your YES vote because the new education reform law is a step forward for students, parents, teachers, and local school districts and returns local governance to school boards. Here is why:
1. All collective bargaining negotiations now must be held in public. No longer are the contract decisions involving 80 percent of public schools budget made behind closed doors. Local patrons and taxpayers can see the deliberations firsthand. Master agreements are published on the school districts website.
2. Contract negotiations must be completed by June 22 or the locally elected school board can implement the last best offer. Before Proposition 1, negotiations often went far into the next school year with no resolution.
3. Now, negotiations will be focused on the critical matters of salaries and benefits, such as vacation leave, sick leave, and sick banks. Gone are the open-ended anything negotiations. Boards can now work to resolve issues as they come up throughout the school year, instead of having to leave them for the negotiation table at the end of the year.
4. Master agreements run for one year: July 1 to June 30. Before, there was no end date, making contracts perpetual and virtually untouchable. Current school boards were bound by decisions made by boards 20, even 30 years ago. Now, we can negotiate in the present.
In addition, local school boards can now make decisions about reduction in force based on the employees performance rather than just longevity. Before, local school boards had no choice except to release the last employees hired, regardless of their performance. That wasnt fair. It often left the school boards no choice but to lay off their best and brightest teachers. Now, we have the local control we need to set effective reduction-in-force policies and to hire teachers on one- or two-year contracts, rather than continuing contracts.
When the education reform legislation passed, some feared teachers voices would not be heard and that negotiations would be contentious and difficult. With two years of negotiations completed under the reform law, the ISBA conducted a statewide survey on the negotiation processes. Ninety percent of Idahos 115 school districts responded. The results are revealing: 87 percent of the district negotiations reached an agreement with their local teacher unions. Districts said the processes were smooth, quick, and peaceful. The survey shows that initial fears were just that: fears, not reality.
Elected school board members have critical responsibilities for the governance of school districts. Foremost is the negotiation of the master agreement and its impact on the staff in their districts. School board members have, and always will, value their teachers. The changes in the education reform law affected by Proposition 1 have restored those local school board responsibilities back where they belong.
Idaho school boards are better because of these education reform laws, and we cant imagine going backwards. Help us do our job effectively. We encourage Idahoans to vote for local governance and vote YES on Proposition 1. Your school boards need your yes vote on Nov. 6.
This guest opinion was submitted by Karen Echeverria, executive director, Idaho School Boards Association. It was co-signed by Lori Bennett, Bruneau Grand View School District, ISBA Region 3 chair; Mike Vuittonet, Meridian School District, ISBA Region 3 vice chair; Barb Dixon, Meadows Valley School District, ISBA Region 8 chair; Margie Chipman, Weiser School District, ISBA Region 8 vice chair; and Anne Ritter, Meridian School District, ISBA president-elect.