Senate Education OK’s ‘last best offer’ bill

A controversial labor bill — allowing school boards to impose their “last best offer” in the event of a negotiating impasse — is headed to a Senate vote.

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Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett

The Senate Education Committee passed the bill Wednesday afternoon, despite an unusual coalition of opposition in committee. Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, joined Boise Democrats Branden Durst and Cherie Buckner-Webb in opposition. “I think this particular bill is a little premature,” said Thayn.

The bill cleared committee on a 6-3 vote, backed by Republicans John Goedde and Bob Nonini of Coeur d’Alene; Russ Fulcher, Meridian; Dean Mortimer, Idaho Falls; Jim Patrick, Twin Falls; and Monty Pearce, New Plymouth.

Testimony on House Bill 260 broke along familiar lines.

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Linda Clark, Meridian school superintendent

The Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Association of School Administrators argued for the bills, and were joined by the superintendent of Idaho’s largest school district. Meridian superintendent Linda Clark called the provision, and the June 10 deadline, a matter of practicality. “There just needs to be a date certain when this process ends.”

The deadline has been in place for two years; it was a component of the 2011 Students Come First laws that were passed in 2011 and repealed by voters in November. In 22 districts, administrators used this latitude to impose an offer — but ISBA Executive Director Karen Echeverria said those district talks had been generally cordial, with the sticking points arising generally from confusion over Students Come First.

“That’s certainly not the reports we got back from our side,” countered Bert Marley, the Idaho Education Association’s public policy director. Marley said the bill would compromise a negotiating structure that has worked well for 40 years.

Regardless of the Senate outcome, the debate will continue. HB 260 would remain in effect for only one year, to allow a legislative interim committee to spend the summer studying labor issues.

Idaho Youth Challenge OK’d. Senate Education also approved House Bill 226, the Idaho Youth Challenge Program funding framework. The committee held the bill Tuesday, but passed it Wednesday without discussion.

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