School board members want labor laws kept on the books

There was some debate Friday morning — echoing the Proposition 1 battle from 2012 — but Idaho school administrators want to keep a series of controversial labor laws on the books.

Specifically, they want to retain the authority to cut staff salaries during a financial crisis, eliminate ongoing “evergreen clauses” in labor agreements and use factors other than seniority when cutting staff. They also want the authority to impose their last best contract offer, if negotiations stall.

ISBA business session IThese were components of Proposition 1, the far-reaching collective bargaining overhaul rejected by Idaho voters in November 2012. The following winter, legislators passed a series of laws reinstating pieces of Proposition 1. But several of these laws will expire if the 2015 Legislature does not make them permanent.

At its annual convention Friday, the Idaho School Boards Association passed a resolution urging the Legislature to keep these laws intact.

“ISBA has collected two years of data that show the laws have been working and that school districts are adhering to their intent,” the group says in its resolution.

Some trustees weren’t convinced.

Boise School Board member Nancy Gregory says the salary-reduction law gives trustees unchecked power to cut pay. West Ada district trustee Carol Sayles reminded colleagues that the resolution ran counter to the popular vote on Proposition 1. “You are continuing to go against the voters of your area,” she said.

But one of Sayles’ West Ada colleagues, Mike Vuittonet, debated for the resolution, saying the labor laws are important tools districts need at their disposal. If these laws vanish from the books, he said, they are unlikely to come back.

The resolutions easily exceeded the simple majority votes required for passage. (The ISBA uses a weighted formula to calculate votes, based on district enrollment.)

Charter schools: In another vote Friday, the ISBA gave charter schools equal footing in the organization.

Charter school board members will be able to present and vote on ISBA resolutions — which provide the core of the group’s lobbying agenda. Board members will be able to sit on the board.

Charter administrators have been able to join the ISBA as affiliate members.

No school administrators argued against the idea, but West Ada district trustee Anne Ritter had “terrible angst” over the idea. Her district has had good relationships with some charters, but “nightmarish” relations with others — and the problems center on flawed governance.

Ritter argued for helping charter schools operate more smoothly, for the benefit of all students.

“Charter schools are not going away,” she said. “Charter schools are going to be continuing to grow.”

The change in bylaws passed 3,404-373, exceeding the two-thirds vote needed for approval.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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