House Ed agrees to end evergreen clauses

With the legislative session winding to a close, the House Education Committee advanced a labor bill to eliminate “evergreen clauses” in labor master agreements.

Committee members voted along party lines Tuesday to send Senate Bill 1147 to the floor with a recommendation it pass.

Karen Echeverria
Karen Echeverria

The bill would require that master agreements’ salary and benefits components be in effect for only one year – from July 1 to June 30. All other provisions – such as class sizes, calendar days, aide requirements and so on – would be effective for two years.

Idaho School Boards Association executive director Karen Echeverria said it is important for districts that master agreements cannot be open-ended and must have a term length.

She also sought to clarify misconceptions, which have spread since the ISBA began pushing a series of labor and bargaining bills. The bill does not affect any individual continuing contracts for teachers who have earned them.

“We are not talking about teacher’s annual contracts, as widely reported each time,” Echeverria said.  “(A) master agreement is between a local union and local school board and includes all negotiated items.”

Echeverria said the bill is needed, so school boards will not be bound by terms negotiated years or decades ago.

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The Idaho Education Association opposes the bill. Under Idaho law, school boards are not required to pass evergreen agreements, IEA attorney Paul Stark said. This bill would eliminate districts’ ability to choose to negotiate evergreen agreements.

“This is a top-down mandate coming from Boise that is mandating what (school boards) do at the local level,” Stark said.

Stark said a provision in the bill, making it retroactive to November, could violate language in the Idaho Constitution that prohibits nullifying contracts that have already been agreed upon.

On March 22, the Senate passed the bill 22-9 after its language was tweaked. With lawmakers targeting Friday as the end of the legislative session, the bill is likely to go quickly to the House floor for a vote.

Majority representation. In other action Tuesday, House Education members advanced a bill that could require local teachers’ unions to prove they represent a majority of educators. Under Senate Bill 1149, a union would have to provide written proof they represent a majority of teachers, if the local school board requests such evidence.

The bill also defines good faith negotiations.

The ISBA also supported this bargaining bill, the IEA opposed it. This bill also cleared the  committee on party lines.

Since both bills have previously cleared the Senate, the House floor will be their final hurdle before going to Gov. Butch Otter for final consideration.