K-12 committee agenda: Labor … and more

When the Legislature set up an “interim committee” to spend the off-season talking about K-12, the committee was expected to take a long look at school labor issues.

After all, Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force did not take up collective bargaining, a conscious decision announced at its first meeting in January. And then the 2013 Legislature passed several bills to reinstate pieces of Proposition 1, the collective bargaining law rejected by voters last November.

On Wednesday, the interim committee will hold its second meeting — and get down to talking about labor issues. But it’s just one topic on a wide-ranging agenda.

The committee will meet beginning at 9 a.m. in the House Education Committee meeting room, on the east wing of the Statehouse’s underground garden level.

A closer look at some highlights on the agenda:

Labor issues. Lawmakers will hear from the education stakeholder groups on opposite sides of the collective bargaining debate.

They will first hear from Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association. The state’s teachers’ union lobbied against most of the labor laws passed by the 2013 Legislature, saying they would undercut the collective bargaining process. Then will then hear from Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association and Rob Winslow of the Idaho Association of School Administrators — groups that said the collective bargaining overhaul was needed to give district superintendents and school boards the flexibility to respond to budget turbulence.

Most of the labor laws were passed with a one-year “sunset clause.” That means the 2014 Legislature will have to decide whether to keep them in place, or repeal them. In a sense, Wednesday’s presentations could provide a sneak preview for 2014.

Cyr, Winslow and Echeverria all appeared before the interim committee at its first meeting on Sept. 12, appealing for putting more money into K-12. (They also all were members of the Otter task force, which recommended money for a teacher career ladder and restoring school district budgets to pre-recession levels.) But where labor issues are concerned, these three stakeholders aren’t likely to be on the same page again.

School safety. Yet another education task force is focused on security. In the aftermath of the Newtown. Conn., shootings, state leaders put together a group to look at safety issues. The Legislature gave the task force $100,000 to do its work. Lawmakers will hear from Matt McCarter, the State Department of Education’s lead staffer on school security issues. They’ll also get a briefing on a recent safety drill conducted at Burley High School, in conjunction with the state’s Bureau of Homeland Security.

Student tests. The state is making the transition to the Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition, a multistate testing compact designed around the new Common Core math and English language standards. And the state reported flat scores in its second annual “SAT day” in April. Education Department staffers will provide an overview on the state of testing in Idaho.

Read all about it: Follow Idaho Education News for full coverage and a live blog from Wednesday’s meeting, and follow @idahoednews for live tweets. 

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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