The House Education Committee on Tuesday voted to introduce the final three rewritten labor bills pushed by the Idaho School Boards Association.
The bills pertain to email delivery of teacher contracts; holding labor negotiations in public and allowing districts to impose their “last best offer” if teachers and a district fail to reach an agreement; and reductions in force.
Committee members unanimously supported the contract emailing bill. The other two bills advanced along party lines; committee Democrats Hy Kloc of Boise, Donna Pence of Gooding and Janie Ward-Engelking of Boise voted no.
ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria and House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said the bills were redrafted following a series of meetings between the ISBA, Idaho Education Association, PTA and Idaho Association of School Administrators.
“We had an opportunity to meet with stakeholders over the last several weeks and feel there has been some improvement in the wording and language of these,” DeMordaunt said.
Echeverria characterized the changes as minor tweaks, taking into account the IEA’s concerns. However, she said officials from the teachers’ union still oppose allowing districts to unilaterally impose contract terms, and oppose the bill on reductions in personnel.
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Nearly every seat in the more than 200-person capacity Capitol Auditorium was filled for the hearing, but committee members did not accept public testimony because the meeting was only a print – or introductory – hearing.
All three bills are now set to receive a full public hearing – with testimony – in the near future, DeMordaunt said.
Echeverria said the ISBA scuttled six of its seven original bills in an attempt to build consensus and agreement — which Gov. Butch Otter has said he expects from significant education reform measures.
“We hoped to garner some agreement from the IEA. However, at end of the time, we were only able to agree on one (of the six new bills),” Echeverria said.
The bill on public negotiations and contract terms contains a slight change from its predecessor, House Bill 67. A school board can impose an offer after making its “last best offer at negotiations,” instead of its “last good faith offer at negotiations.”
Echeverria said language from the negotiations bill was essentially the same as verbiage from Proposition 1, the repealed Students Come First labor law.
“If this is language from Prop 1, why is there a rush to get this legislation through?” Kloc asked.
Under the ISBA’s reduction-in-force bill, seniority would not be the first factor considered when districts reduce their staffing if revenues fall short or enrollment declines. “The decision to institute a reduction in force and the selection of employee(s) subject to such reduction shall be at the sole discretion of the board of trustees.”
Additionally, seniority will be considered if employee performance, subject matter, certification school needs and other factors are considered equally.
Those Senate bills also are set for full public hearings in the future.