Members of the House Education Committee on Friday advanced a pair of collective bargaining bills pushed by the Idaho School Boards Association.
The bills pertain to leaves of absence for staff members and districts being able to impose the “last, best offer” if negotiations aren’t agreed upon prior to a June 10 deadline.
Both are part of a crop of revised bills that have been written, rewritten and rewritten again before being introduced Tuesday in the committee.
ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria said members of her organization met with the Idaho Education Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators and legislative committee leaders to tweak language and attempt to build consensus.
House Bill 259 allows superintendents to place employees on involuntarily, unpaid leave if they are jailed or subject to a court order that prevents them from being around minors or other adults working in the school.
“School districts shouldn’t’ be responsible for paying the salary of individuals that cannot meet the terms of their contract and then pay for a substitute (teacher) as well,” said Brain Duncan, chairman of the Minidoka School District 331 Board of Trustees. “That simply is not a good use of taxpayer dollars.”
Paul Stark, general counsel for the Idaho Education Association, opposed the bill, saying it threatens the livelihood of educators who could be falsely accused of wrongdoing or subject to overreaching no-contact orders issued in a divorce proceeding.
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“The biggest reason, truthfully, is this bill creates a scenario where someone is essentially in an employment situation and found guilty before they’ve been able to prove their innocence,” Stark said.
Committee Democrats, led by Rep. Hy Kloc of Boise, unsuccessfully attempted to send the bill out for amendments making the leave either paid or setting up an escrow account where the compensation could be made whole upon exoneration.
After that move failed, the committee voted to send the bill to the House floor with a recommendation it pass.
The other bill, House Bill 260, allows teachers’ representatives and school boards to work with mediators if they cannot reach agreement on their annual contracts. That bill sets a June 10 deadline for completing negotiations, and allows school districts to impose the board’s last, best offer in the event negotiations break down.
Linda Clark, superintendent of Meridian Joint School District 2, backed the bill, saying the deadline needs to be in place so districts can facilitate the arrival of students when school begins in August. She added elected board members need to have tools such as this bill to help them effectively manage their budgets.
Two teachers, Mandy Simpson (Nampa School District) and second-grade teacher Jason Vlcek (Payette Primary School), turned out to oppose House Bill 260.
Vlcek, a member of the education association in Payette, said the June 10 deadline is too tight because districts and teacher have much to negotiate, including Common Core, technology use, salaries and benefits.
He also said voters have spoken in repealing Proposition 1, the collective bargaining aspect of the Students Come First laws.
“I think the voters are smart, and I think they knew what was in all of these bills,” Vlcek said.
Committee members ultimately voted 12-3 along party lines to send that bill to the House floor with a recommendation for approval.
On Monday, committee members are set to take up a third ISBA labor bill, House Bill 261, which governs reductions in force.