ITS TIME TO HEAL WOUNDS, NOT DEBATE
Post Register, Idaho Falls
The Students Come First education reform package contained something for everyone to love and hate. Clearly, however, it wasnt those details that inspired Idahoans to repeal the Luna laws in November.
It was process.
Citizens across the state did not appreciate how State Superintendent Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter jammed their reforms though a Republican-dominated Legislature with minimal input from parents and teachers.
Otter said he got the message. A stakeholder task force was formed. It was announced that no meaningful education reform legislation would be considered during the 2013 session.
What happened? After just two meetings, the task force and its work are at risk. The Idaho School Boards Association introduced four bills this week that bear a striking resemblance to Proposition 1, which limited the power of the teachers union and was struck down by nearly 57 percent of Idahos voters.
To be clear, the ISBA isn't proposing anything that shouldn't be discussed in time.
For now, however, ISBA and the Republican legislators supporting its effort should understand they are jeopardizing the education reform process by pushing these regurgitated laws before the task force can get its feet on the ground.
The sentiment among those who opposed Luna's reforms is that the fix is in: a task force whose mission is now unclear, taking labor issues off the table and clearing the decks for the ISBA to limit the length of teacher contracts, weaken the unions ability to negotiate and allow districts to cut the pay of experienced educators.
Otter should defend his turf threaten to use his veto stamp, because if the ISBA package becomes law, the governor's task force might as well disband. Nothing it recommends on technology, funding, merit pay or teacher training will mean a thing to a citizenry that overwhelmingly said process does matter.
What also should matter is the morale of Idaho's teachers, who have fled the state the past two years at a record pace and were described as experiencing a strong undercurrent of despair by a recent Office of Performance Evaluations report.
Now is not the time for this debate. Now is the time for healing wounds and educating minds. Legislators should pass only those bills needed to bridge the transition from the Luna laws to the old status quo.
Let Otter's task force get everything including labor issues on the table. Let everyone's voice be heard.
Then, and only then, let us engage in a meaningful debate about how to most effectively and efficiently deliver public education, because if this is what passes for collaboration, the majority either doesnt know what the word means or has already discarded the message the voters sent three short months ago.
INDEPENDENCE KEY TO ETHICS REFORM
Times-News, Twin Falls
On the Friday before the Legislatures session began, Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett and House Speaker Scott Bedke sat side by side and seemed to espouse the same idea that its time for Idaho to join 41 other states in the formation of an ethics commission.
Stennett reminded the press and lawmakers present that day that Idaho Democrats have been pushing for an independent ethics commission for six years, with a stress on the word independent.
Bedke responded by saying that house lawmakers are looking at details of what an ethics commission would look like. He did not elaborate, and he did not use the word independent.
We have two things to say. First, its about time. Second, if an ethics commission is not independent, it is not worth the time, money or effort. It will only be a wasteful charade. As we have learned again and again, lawmakers protect their own. They have an incredible capacity for forgiveness of the wrongdoings of their colleagues. That is, until its politically expedient to do otherwise.