Statehouse roundup, 2.18.15: Labor laws, and more

Two bills are in the works to make pieces of the failed Proposition 1 school labor law permanent.

And one has consensus support from the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Education Association.

The House Education Committee voted to print — or introduce a bill that would permanently prohibit so-called “evergreen clauses” in school master agreements.

School boards could negotiate salaries and benefits for no more than one year, and other clauses for no more than two years.

More long-standing clauses have been outlawed since 2013 — when legislators approved a ban on “evergreen clauses” in the wake of voter rejection of Proposition 1. But those bans have only been on the books for a year at a time. The proposal before House Education would make this language permanent.

Jessica Harrison of ISBA presented the bill — and said her group was close to a consensus with the IEA, the state’s teachers’ union, and the Idaho Association of School Administrators. Representatives of IEA and IASA attended Wednesday’s hearing but did not testify, which is customary for a brief and informal “print” hearing.

The IASA supported the 2013 evergreen clause repeal and the one-year extension. The IEA did not sign on with either bill.

Last week, the Senate Education Committee introduced Senate Bill 1088, addressing two other 2013 labor laws. If this bill passes, school districts would need to consider factors aside from seniority when forced to cut staff, and would allow school boards to cut staff salaries or contract days.

Again, this language was extended in 2014. ISBA and IEA agree on making the language permanent. The IEA says it agreed to making the laws permanent, in exchange for language that limits when a district can reduce staffing.

In other Statehouse news from Wednesday:

Advanced opportunities. The dual credit program widely known as “Fast Forward” gotten off to a fast start — exceeding supporters’ expectations.

The 2014 Legislature earmarked $3 million for the program, to provide juniors up to $200 and seniors up to $400 for dual-credit courses. It’s now likely to cost $5 million a year.

And the flood of applications has created a burden for administrators in larger districts. For example, the West Ada School District received more than 2,800 applications. “We want to make this good and we’ve got to make this work, but we’ve got to take the burden off of our school districts,” Amy Shumway, West Ada’s advanced opportunities facilitator, told the Senate Education Committee.

The committee wound up approving a bill designed to streamline the process for advanced opportunities programs such as Fast Forward and “8 in 6,” a program that enables students to take an accelerated course load through extra classes and summer work.

Senate Bill 1050 goes to the Senate floor with unanimous support from the committee.

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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