Senate Passes Third Ed-Reform Bill
The Idaho Senate has voted 20-15 to pass the third piece of a plan to reform Idaho's public schools. The bill will advance to the House despite opposition from public school trustees, administrators and the statewide teachers union over how the legislation will fund new technology upgrades in the classroom. The measure is part of a Republican-backed reform plan authored by schools chief Tom Luna, with backing from Republican Governor "Butch" Otter. The legislation has undergone significant changes since it was first introduced in the 2011 Idaho Legislature. It was reworked amid protest over provisions in the previous bill that would have required online learning and armed students with laptops while also increasing class sizes and cutting 770 teaching jobs to pay for the reforms. Still those opposed to the plan, like Idaho Senator Nicole Lefavour of Boise, say it's simply a matter of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Under the new bill, Idaho would shift money from public school funding used primarily for teacher salaries to fund the new technology upgrades and a new teacher pay-for-performance plan.
The new bill directs the state Board of Education to draft standards governing the online course requirements and would form a state task force to study the implementation of the laptop program. Students starting in the ninth grade would still eventually get the mobile computing devices, but teachers will get them first along with training. Most state senators were convinced by the argument that they needed to take action in the 2011 session to restructure how Idaho's scarce education dollars are spent. The governor has already signed two other parts of the Luna's reform package into law, phasing out tenure for new educators and restricting collective bargaining while introducing teacher merit pay.