When it came to passing Students Come First, state Superintendent Tom Lunas far-reaching and hastily assembled K-12 overhaul, Idahos 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.
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 theres 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. Its 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 wont make all the hard feelings dissipate, but its the right thing to do. Maybe it also sets the tone for whats needed next: inclusive good-faith discussions about education reform.