School trustees aim to resurrect Luna overhaul

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A month after voters rejected disputed laws that cut into teacher's collective bargaining rights, Idaho school board trustees are pushing to have some of the same provisions reinstated by the 2013 Legislature.

The Idaho School Boards Association wants to revive several pieces of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's "Students Come First" overhaul, including a June 10 deadline for contract negotiations to end. If no pact is reached, under the provision, the district simply could impose its own contract.

The Spokesman-Review reports that at least 16 school districts unilaterally imposed their own plans this year after failing to reach an agreement.

The association's lobbyist, Karen Echeverria, said her group wants to resurrect elements that school board trustees feel strongly about. The group voted last month to pursue the plan.

"We hoped that the union would support at least parts of this - we know they won't be able to support all of it," said Echeverria, the association's executive director.

But foes of Luna's overhaul who succeeded in killing all three propositions at the Nov. 6 ballot box immediately panned her group's plan.

"It's Proposition 1 right back up there again," said Maria Greeley, a Boise school trustee and co-chair of the statewide campaign to reject Luna's overhaul. "I'm not saying that everything in it is bad. The one piece that concerns me the most is that deadline, because it gives districts the opportunity to abuse the negotiation process. It doesn't make them come in and do the tough work of working through it."

In addition to the limits on collective bargaining rights, voters last month rejected Luna's plan to pay teachers bonuses based on a merit system, as well as online-class graduation requirements and a $180 million contract with Hewlett-Packard to provide high school students and teachers with laptop computers.

Greeley opposed the resolution at last month's state school boards association conference where a package of reforms won 75 percent support.

Among other provisions Echeverria's group wants revived are striking a law that prevents teacher salaries from dropping from one year to the next; reviving a requirement to hold teacher negotiations in public; requiring all contract terms to expire annually; and reinstating a requirement that unions prove they represent more than half of teachers before they're allowed to negotiate.

The trustees' plan doesn't include a disputed portion of Luna's overhaul that limited contract negotiations to salaries and benefits.

Even so, union leaders also panned the trustee's plan to resurrect elements of the failed overhaul - especially before groups with a stake in the outcome have had an opportunity to meet and vet ideas that have broad support.

"The voters have already spoken overwhelmingly," said Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association. "Evidently ISBA didn't hear that."

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he expects legislation that includes the trustees' wishes will receive lawmakers' attention early in the session that starts Jan. 7.

"We will get lobbied very hard by members of the school boards association, locally elected trustees, to move that forward," Goedde said. "If locally elected trustees are supportive of that, I think it deserves a hearing and discussion."

Gov. Butch Otter has suggested he'll appoint a working group to explore where Idaho should go next on school reform, after the voters' rejection of the "Students Come First" laws he helped champion with Luna.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review