School trustees will weigh in on tiered licensure

When the state’s school superintendents and school trustees meet in Boise this week, they’ll be put on the spot on the tiered licensure controversy.

They’ll also have a long list of school financing issues on the agenda.

ISBA business session
School trustees convene to vote during the Idaho School Boards Association’s 2013 convention.

The Idaho School Boards Association’s annual convention starts Wednesday at Boise’s Riverside Hotel. It ends with a business session Friday morning — an open caucus of sorts, as school trustees from across the state accept or reject a series of resolutions. Those votes will provide the lobbying wish list for the ISBA, as it heads into the 2015 legislative session.

Among the top items:

Tiered licensure. The Idaho Falls School District is working on a resolution opposing tiered licensure — a plan to create three types of teacher certificates, as a linchpin for determining teacher pay. Teachers would move from one tier to the next based on student performance and local evaluations.

The plan has already drawn fire from one stakeholder group, the Idaho Education Association, and teachers turned out in force to testify against the plan during State Board of Education hearings last month. The State Board meets Thursday afternoon, one day before the ISBA business session, and may vote to present the tiered licensure plan to the Legislature.

The ISBA’s executive board has not yet seen Idaho Falls’ proposal, and has taken no position on it.

Impact fees. The West Ada School District wants the authority to collect impact fees from new residential development, to help cover the cost for needed school additions. West Ada, the state’s largest school district, has a long history of seeking bond issues to meet the demands of enrollment growth; however, in August, a $104 million bond issue fell short of the two-thirds supermajority required for passage.

The ISBA executive board supports this proposal.

The supermajority. The Moscow School District wants the state to relax the two-thirds supermajority requirement. According to the resolution: “Any reduction of this extremely high approval rate that is needed would help provide better school facilities in Idaho.”

Repealing the supermajority is a tall order, since it is written into the Idaho Constitution. An amendment would need two-thirds support in both houses, and voter approval. The ISBA board wants to see a reduction in the supermajority.

Sales tax for school construction? The Lewiston School District has had no luck convincing property owners to pay for a new high school. So now the district wants to pursue a local-option sales tax to bankroll the project.

It’s a novel proposition. In 2004, Nez Perce County voters approved a half-cent sales tax to build a new jail — a rare exception in a state that grants limited local taxing authority. The jail has been built and the jail sales tax is going away, so now the school district wants to piggyback on the local-option sales tax concept.

The ISBA has taken no position on the proposal.

Labor laws. School trustees will take another look at some contentious collective bargaining issues: a law allowing school districts to impose their last best offer if parties fail to come to terms; a law allowing districts to cut salaries during a financial crisis; and a law allowing districts to consider factors other than seniority when they are forced to cut staff.

These provisions were part of the failed Proposition 1 labor overhaul, and legislators have voted them back into law. But these laws are set to expire, and the ISBA board wants to see them extended.

Charter schools. Do the state’s charter school administrators deserve equal footing within the ISBA — as full-fledged members that can propose and vote on the group’s legislative resolutions?

That could be a sensitive topic, ISBA executive director Karen Echeverria says. She acknowledges that some administrators have heartburn over the state’s growing number of charter schools, which can sap funding from traditional schools. She expects a close vote on this issue — a change in bylaws, requiring two-thirds support.

Echeverria sees a strategic advantage to bringing the charters aboard. “I think it makes our lobbying efforts even more powerful,” she said Monday. “They deal with the same issues that traditional schools have to.”

Sherri Ybarra? The newly elected state superintendent will not address the convention. That was the ISBA’s call, not Ybarra’s. “We just simply didn’t have any time on our agenda,” Echeverria said.

Check back at Idaho Education News during the week for full convention coverage.