Statehouse roundup, 2.24.15: Labor laws, SBAC and more

The House Education Committee advanced a bill Tuesday to make a piece of the failed Proposition 1 labor law permanent.

Karen Echeverria
Karen Echeverria

Two years ago, the Legislature passed a law placing a one-year limit on salary and benefit components of the master agreements negotiated between the school district and the local education union or bargaining agency. All other matters would be limited to two years.

The law was designed to eliminate so-called “evergreen clauses” in the master agreements.

However, that ban was scheduled to expire, or sunset, this summer.

Idaho School Boards Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria said the law must be extended, in order to help school board members set their budget in a timely manner each year.

“ISBA members believe strongly that master agreements cannot be open ended and must have a term length,” Echeverria said.

Any changes to the law would not apply to the annual individual teacher contracts districts issue each year – only the negotiated master agreements.

The bill next heads to the House floor for consideration.

In other Statehouse education news Tuesday:

Anti-SBAC resolution. The Senate Education Committee endorsed a resolution to limit the amount of time students spend on statewide tests — and possibly replace the Idaho Standards Achievement Test by Smarter Balanced.

Thayn New
Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett

The SBAC test, which will be administered statewide for the first time this spring, is “probably a poor fit for the state,” says Senate Concurrent Resolution 106, proposed by Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett. The resolution directs state superintendent Sherri Ybarra to present cheaper and less time-consuming SBAC alternatives to the 2016 Legislature.

“I think we’ve needed a discussion on testing for quite a long time,” Thayn said. “We want to make sure tests don’t disrupt learning, unduly.”

Thayn’s resolution had support from Idaho Education Association president Penni Cyr, Boise School Board member Troy Rohn and the West Ada School District.

With the committee’s unanimous support, the resolution heads to the Senate floor.

Dual credit. After a debate that focused on the costs of a new and successful dual-credit program, the Senate endorsed a bill designed to streamline Idaho’s advanced opportunities programs.

Cameron New
Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert

Senate Bill 1050 would remove caps on the “Fast Forward” dual credit program. High school students signed up for 63,000 reduced-cost college credits during fall semester, and first-year costs are projected at $5 million. The 2014 Legislature earmarked $3 million for the first year.

Costs for the 2015 fall semester are projected at $4 million.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, reluctantly voted against the bill. He predicted the costs will only increase on the uncapped program, placing more pressure on the overall budget.
Thayn, the bill’s floor sponsor, said the $65 college credits are doing what they are designed to do: encourage high school students to pursue higher education.
The bill now goes to the House.

Alternative funding. Midvale Republican Rep. Judy Boyle successfully steered her alternative school finance bill through the House Education Committee,

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Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale

Boyle is pushing House Bill 126, which she said would benefit charter schools, virtual schools and public schools that experience enrollment growth during the middle of the academic year.

Salary-based apportionment is now calculated based on a complex formula that involves student attendance numbers from the first 10 weeks of the school year. Boyle’s bill would allow schools to use support unit, or classroom unit, numbers from the beginning of the school year or throughout the school year to determine salary-based apportionment funding.

“If a student leaves and goes to another school, (that first school) still gets funded for that student, but the new school does not,” Boyle said. “That creates a lot of problems for our schools who are safety nets for our students; virtual schools, charter schools, alternative schools and a lot of rural schools, as well.”

Jane Wittmeyer of the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families and Kelly Edginton, the head of school for the Idaho Virtual Academy, backed the bill.

The Idaho Association of School Administrators opposed the bill, unsuccessfully lobbied for the committee to delay action on the bill.

Boyle estimates her bill would cost $1.7 million this year – a figure that would change from year to year based on attendance and enrollment.

The bill next heads to the House floor.

Reporters Clark Corbin and Kevin Richert contributed to this report from the Statehouse. 

Reporters Clark Corbin and Kevin Richert contributed to this report from the Statehouse. 

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