Teachers throughout Idaho will get bonuses to recognize last years work despite the defeat of Idahos merit pay law in the Nov. 6 election, Idaho schools Superintendent Tom Luna said Monday, but about $50 million set aside for other Students Come First programs this fiscal year could fall by the wayside.
Among the casualties could be the second half of $13 million in technology funding earmarked for the states 115 school districts and money set aside for hiring new math and science teachers. However, Luna said, the 2013 Legislature could agree to direct that money to districts anyway, and he will advocate for those programs.
Luna met with reporters Monday afternoon, speaking publicly for the first time since his sweeping school-reform package was rejected by voters in the Nov. 6 election.
He said he is committed to continuing work toward school reform and collaborating with stakeholders including the Idaho teachers union and others who opposed the three laws he shepherded through the Legislature in 2011.
This is a bump in the road, Luna said, saying that the proposals that will go to lawmakers this winter will be less comprehensive and focus on areas where both sides in the election battle can find agreement.
And he said some of his proposals might have won public support if they would have been presented to lawmakers on their own rather than packaged into three complex laws that were repealed by referenda.
Some of the specific components of his Students Come First package were broadly embraced, even by opponents of the SCF laws, he said. One example, he said, is the dual-credit proposal that would allow students who complete their high school graduation requirements to take up to 36 college credits funded by the state.
One piece of good news, he said, is that the $38.9 million set aside for teacher bonuses based on last years performance can be paid out this semester, according to an Idaho attorney generals opinion that was issued Friday. Luna had earlier said it was uncertain if that money could be distributed if the law was voted down.
The state will distribute the merit money to districts this Friday, and districts have until Dec. 15 to hand out the pay to teachers. An estimated 85 percent of the states teachers are expected to receive bonuses averaging $2,000.
Luna said he waited until six days after the election to meet with reporters because, I didnt want to meet with you based on emotion and exhaustion.
He said he never considered resigning after the laws were voted down, and he will work with stakeholders to help determine the future shape of education reform in Idaho.