TO JOHN GOEDDESAYING 'NO'MEANS 'NOT YET'
Five months ago, the people of Idaho said no. No to overturning teachers' employment rights - 57 percent. No to imposing a merit pay system rewarding teachers more for whether they work in a wealthy school than what they do - 58 percent. No to pulling money meant for teacher salaries to pay for an untested technology initiative - 66.7 percent.
When state school Superintendent Tom Luna was cramming this 2011 overhaul package down the throats of Idaho parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers, Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, was helping him every step of the way. Since November's referendum campaign, Goedde, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has taken any opportunity to get even with the voters for repudiating his handiwork.
If there's a bill to continue weakening teacher collective bargaining rights, he's on board.
When the Farm Bureau came up with a scheme to weaken Idaho's initiative/referendum process, Goedde voted yes.
When the Legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations reported a "strong undercurrent of despair among teachers who seem to perceive a climate that disparages their efforts and belittles their contributions," Goedde told teachers to take a happy pill.
"If I walk into this building on Monday morning feeling good, and everybody I talk to says, 'You're looking bad,' maybe I start feeling bad. I think despair is contagious, as is enthusiasm - it's a state of mind," Goedde said.
And recently, Goedde delivered the coup d'état - defeating a $1.3 billion public school appropriation bill by an 18-17 Senate vote. Lawmakers haven't rejected a school funding bill in 21 years. The maneuver threw the Legislature into a tizzy. Lawmakers thought Good Friday would be their last day in Boise. They ended up coming back for April Fools' Day.
But the question is: Why did he do it? Goedde says the budget-writing committee usurped its authority by allocating about $34 million in money freed up when the Luna laws were repealed. Budget writers put $8.4 million into teacher training, $12.6 million toward a grass-roots-designed merit pay bonus system and $13 million toward technology, most of it in the classroom.
Such policies, Goedde says, should have been decided by his committee.
"I was the education chair that was not included in the grand compromise," he said.
So that's it? Turf?
Goedde's peeved because he didn't get his say over 2.6 percent of a $1.3 billion package? Except he did. His committee was given time to study the measure. Goedde's suggestions got incorporated into the final budget bill.
Could it possibly be something else? For instance, is Goedde miffed at the reversal of the Luna package's most odious feature - pulling about $12.4 million from pay owed to teachers? Under that provision, teachers got less money for longevity and training. For instance, a teacher with five years of experience was compensated as if she had been on the job for only three years.
Chiseling teachers freed up money for Luna's other priorities.
After voters rejected that approach, a coalition of 15 Democrats, Senate moderates and House Republicans on the budget panel restored the money.
But not everybody got the message. Five of Goedde's Senate allies on the budget panel - including Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood - disregarded the voters' mandate. When Goedde made his move against the school bill, those five Republicans supported him.
So keep an eye on Goedde. If a campaign begins to strike the teacher longevity pay from the new budget bill, here's betting his fingerprints will be all over it.
Nobody says no to John Goedde.
TIME TO BRINGBERGDAHL HOME
Times-News, Twin Falls
Recently, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl turned 27. He was 23 years old when he was captured in Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.
That's almost four years of a family not knowing and the community of Hailey doing its best to make sure no one forgets a hometown son is being held by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network in Pakistan.
At his February Senate confirmation hearing, John Brennan wore a yellow bracelet with the date of Bergdahl's capture. The gesture was a glimmer of hope for those who continue to wonder, why doesn't anyone do anything?
In 2012, a senior U.S. military official told the Associated Press the Pentagon believes Bergdahl to be alive, in relatively good health and in captivity somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
It's hard to feel this helpless, and we can't imagine how difficult it is for Sgt. Bergdahl's family.
What we can't do: We can't go rescue Bowe Bergdahl or negotiate for his return. All we can do is make noise. Fortunately, that's just what people are doing. A group of activists interested in keeping the names of Prisoners of War in the public mind will be holding a rally next April 9, in Washington, D.C.
The community of Hailey and Bergdahl supporters are already hard at work on a Bring Bowe Back event on June 22.
Don't stop making noise, even if our voices are getting hoarse, even if people are ready to move on to the next news story, even if no one seems to be listening.