Education

Senator’s bill targets ‘chaos’ in West Ada School district

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, ran into a buzz-saw of questions and concerns when he proposed legislation Monday morning prompted by a pending recall election in the West Ada School District. Winder said his bill, based on a Feb. 3 article he read in the Idaho Statesman, is aimed at a situation where a quorum of a school board – in this case, four of five members – are targeted by a recall election, and then decide to resign. Winder said his bill would prevent them from resigning and appointing replacements “of like mind,” thereby frustrating the intent of those seeking a recall. Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, asked, “I’m not understanding how you would determine if someone was of like mind. I heard you use that term, replacing them with someone of like mind.”

Winder said, “I think the real issue here is not the person that necessarily gets appointed.” They may be great candidates, he says, who do “not have some of the baggage” of the trustees targeted for recall. “But the idea is when the recall process is under way, there’s obviously something going on in the district that some patrons are upset about. … The idea would be whenever a quorum of the board, or a majority of the board (is up for recall), they would not be allowed to replace members of the board with the intent of basically circumventing the recall process.”

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, said, “I don’t know if I understand completely where the good senator is trying to go on this. … And if those ... of a different mind were those left on the board, that were able to call for nominations to replace those that may resign subject to the recall effort, wouldn’t that, I guess, take care of the idea of that singlemindedness of a board would be then broken? So, Mr. Chairman, I wonder if we’re doing something here that we shouldn’t be mingling with.”

Winder told the Senate State Affairs Committee that the bill was his idea, based on the news story he read. “There would be many people that would like to testify for and against this bill, I’m sure, if it does get printed,” he said. “The process that happened is majority of the board changed in the election that occurred last summer. Since that time, there’s been really what I would call chaos in the district.”

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, raised a series of issues over the wording of the bill and how it would work. After lots of discussion, Davis said the proposal seemed to be igniting “a firestorm,” and a “good motion” would be to return the bill to its sponsor, but he moved to introduce it. “I need to understand more, before I know what the right language and policy is,” he said. Siddoway seconded Davis’ motion.

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “I’m going to support the motion, but I will state I’m very reluctant to jump into this issue and appear to give one side or the other some advantage through legislative action. So I am interested in hearing the testimony on this.”

Buckner-Webb said she, too, would support the motion to introduce, but said, “I am very concerned about this legislation.” The committee then voted to introduce the bill, clearing the way for a possible hearing.

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