House Bill 307 is dead, but House Education Committee members on Thursday replaced it with an updated salary bill that also directs how teacher pay is restored.
Committee members voted to introduce and fast-track the new bill, which mirrors some elements of 307, but gives districts greater flexibility.
Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, pushed the new bill after he decided to hold 307 in committee. Earlier in the week, the older bill was the subject of an unusual voting process and procedural confusion.
On Tuesday, lawmakers killed the bill after an 8-8 vote. But the next morning, Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, announced the vote was illegal because of the way the motion preceding the vote was made.
The new bill also directs a planned 1.67 percent restoration to the salary pool toward increasing the number of instructional employees and the number of educators’ contract days – or a combination of the two.
The major difference between the two bills is that the new one allows districts to use the 1.67 percent for any purpose allowed within salary-based apportionment if a district’s staff levels and contract days are at least equal to what they were in the 2011 budget year.
DeMordaunt said his goal is to help districts restore staff cuts and furlough days.
“What we brought to you today is a better bill,” DeMordaunt said. “It addresses all of the contingencies out there by providing the flexibility districts need as they roll back to where they were (before the recession),”
But opponents say there are still too many restrictions on how districts may use the money once it is put in the salary pool.
“It should be a local decision about where we go,” said Idaho Education Association Executive Director Robin Nettinga.
After some committee members expressed doubt Wednesday as to whether teachers’ base salaries were actually cut during recession-era holdbacks, Nettinga shared teachers union data showing educuators in at least 20 districts lost pay during budget cuts. In some districts, she said, minimum teacher salaries were slashed and overall base salaries were reduced.
“Yes, in fact, teachers have seen salary reductions,” Nettinga said after the hearing.
Linda Clark, superintendent of Meridian Joint School District 2, told committee members she supports the new bill. In response to budget-tightening, Clark said her district was forced to cut 127 teaching positions and furlough employees.
“We have no other way to restore teaching positions other than… restoring the 1.67 percent,” Clark said. “We support this bill because it allows us to reverse that and provides us with the funds to restore those teaching positions.”
In the end, committee members voted 11-4 to advance the bill to the floor and fast-track it so it will not need to come back to them for another hearing.
Republican Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, joined the committee’s three Democrats in opposing the new salary bill.
The new bill relies on the assumption that the 1.67 percent restoration called for in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee’s 2013-2014 school budget will pass the House and Senate and be signed into law.
New interim ed committee planned. In other action Thursday, committee members voted to introduce a new bill that would create an interim legislative committee to look at policy and labor issues when the Legislature adjourns.
The new committee – which will be appointed by House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley and Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg – will “undertake a complete study of how to improve and strengthen Idaho’s k-12 educational system and all matters relating thereto.”
Committee members will report their findings and recommendations to lawmakers during the 2014 session.
Earlier this year, Gov. Butch Otter convened a different task force that is studying k-12 policy and reform issues and will tour the state in April. Early on, members of that committee said they would not address labor and collective bargaining issues. Earlier this month, Bedke told Idaho Ed News that he supported creating a new committee that would have the task of reviewing at bargaining issues.