Capitol Notes from the ISBA, Feb. 4

 Another busy week for education

It was another busy week in the legislature for K-12 education stakeholders.  As most of you probably know by now, ISBA printed several pieces of legislation related to collective bargaining and labor issues.  That legislation is related to our Resolution #3.  After the print hearing we met with the Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA) and the Idaho Education Association (IEA) – more about that meeting later.

In addition, the Education Committees held a “Listening Hearing” on Friday morning for 2 ½ hours.  Several people testified to the joint committee.  Much of the testimony was focused on charter school funding – more about that later as well.  In addition, a few individuals testified against ISBA’s legislation.  It is my understanding that the Education Committees may hold one more listening hearing in the evening.  The hope is to reach those folks who work during the day and give them an opportunity to speak.  We will keep you posted on the time and date and will ask several of you to attend.

I have heard from several of you about the negative press we are receiving on these bills and the backlash from the IEA.  We knew this would happen.  We are doing what we can at the State level by issuing press releases and writing articles like this.  It is up to all of us to take the time to discuss these bills with those we know.  I can tell you that whenever someone asks me about the legislation and I take the time to explain it to them; they really do change their minds about it.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about what these bills do and without our input; the public is going to continue to misunderstand.

Much misinformation

The press continues to publish, and people continue to state, that ISBA is bringing back ALL of the collective bargaining issues found in SCF.  Let me be clear, WE ARE NOT.  I have also been criticized for saying that I understood the needs and wishes of the IEA membership.  Again, I SAID NO SUCH THING.  What I said was that we had heard the concerns of the IEA membership during the recent campaign.  And, we did.  The two things that we heard during the campaign were that teachers wanted the ability to negotiate anything and they wanted to preserve their continuing contracts.  If there were campaign ads that addressed any of the issues found in the seven ISBA resolutions I did not see, hear, or read them – nor did any members of the ISBA Executive Board.

Also, IEA President, Penny Cyr, stated that they tried and tried to get in to help craft the legislation.  If that is the case, I don’t know who they were contacting because it was not the ISBA.  I have email trails dating back as far as December 7 that shows they were aware of the resolution passed by ISBA, but there was no request from the IEA to meet and discuss the resolution and possible legislation.  In late December, I began contacting the IEA asking them to meet with us to discuss the resolution.  My last attempt was on January 3.  It was not until January 15, that the IEA contacted us with possible times and dates to meet.  We met with them the following day.  We had a very congenial and pleasant meeting.  Even at that time, it was clear even that we would have issues on which we would not agree.  But, I was hopeful that we would find consensus on some of the issues – again, more on that below.  In any case, I want to be clear that we did attempt to meet with them on more than one occasion, that we did in fact meet with them prior to printing the bills, and that we are meeting with them now.

We will need your help

I am going to start asking all of you to contact your legislators and discuss the need for passage of the ISBA legislation.  We have prepared a series of talking points for each bill and we are glad to share those with any of you should you wish.  Just let us know.  In addition, you will have ample time during Day on the Hill to discuss these issues with your local legislators so if you have not already registered, we encourage you to do so as soon as possible.

It will be imperatively important for the ISBA and IASA membership to contact legislators and explain the need for this legislation.  They will undoubtedly hear from the other side and they will need to know there are those who believe in this legislation.  We have a lot of support, but it will take everything we have to get it passed.  If you don’t know who your legislators are, please contact us and we can get you that information.

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Collective bargaining and teacher contract legislation

As I indicated above, on Wednesday of last week, we met with the IEA and the IASA to discuss the seven pieces of legislation.  First of all, we were only able to discuss four of the seven bills.  The IEA indicated that they had only reviewed four of the bills and it took us nearly two hours to discuss those four.  Despite my original hopes, we were, unfortunately, not able to find consensus on any of the four pieces we discussed.

Below is a short synopsis of each piece of legislation along with the IEA’s objection and their suggestion for a solution.  IEA’s objection/solution is found in italics after each point and the ISBA’s remaining concern is found below that.  I should note that there were several small objections or suggestions that the ISBA will make to the legislation.  I am only writing about the bigger issues.

Unpaid Leave Administrative Leave:  This is part of a bill that in the event an employee has a criminal court order that does not allow him or her to be on the school grounds and would keep them from complying with the conditions of their contract, then the school district can place them on unpaid administrative leave.  The school district should not be responsible for paying the salary of any individual who cannot meet the terms of their contract and then pay for a substitute as well.  That is not a good use of tax payer dollars.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  The IEA does not want to see the employee punished in any way if they are innocent of the crime.  They would like to see school districts create an escrow account where the employees pay would be placed while they are on unpaid leave.  If the employee pleads guilty or is found guilty, then the money would revert back to the school district.  If they are found innocent, then the money would be given back to the employee.  In the meantime, the school district would still be responsible for paying the substitute teacher.

ISBA’s question:  Should the taxpayer be responsible for paying for a teacher’s salary and a substitute’s salary when the teacher is unable to perform the duties of the contract?

Managing the length and term of teacher’s contracts:  School districts need to have the flexibility in local governance to manage the long-term fiscal affairs of their school districts prudently.  That means they need to have the ability from year to year, based on the funding at hand, to reduce or lengthen the term of a contract and for that contract to be of greater, lesser, or equal salary as that in the current contract.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  The IEA would like to see a return to the Financial Emergency legislation.  They are suggesting a reduction in some of the percentages that they believe would make it easier for school districts to declare the emergency.

ISBA’s question:  Should school districts be the only taxing district in the state that is required to declare financial emergencies in order to manage the finances of their districts?

Open Negotiations and Final Offer.  This bill would require that all negotiations be held in public and that posting requirements be followed.  In addition, if no agreement is reached by both parties, then the locally elected school board members, whose responsibility it is to manage the finances of the district, will have the authority to operate under the terms of the district’s last offer at negotiations.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  We have not yet discussed this piece of legislation.

De Novo Hearings.  Any school district employee has the right to appeal to a district court the decision made by the board of trustees in any grievance proceeding.  Currently, when that appeal occurs, a completely new trial begins with the district court. That is unlike any other proceeding for state, county, or city employees.  What occurs with other entities is that the record from the local level proceeding is forwarded to the district court.  The district court judge can either affirm the decision or set it aside and remand it back to the local entity upon certain grounds.  This bill would simply ask that grievances in school districts be treated in the same manner as state employees rather than having a completely new trial.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  The IEA asked that we move language from the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act into this bill rather than simply referring to in the last subsection of the legislative language.  We are open to doing that.  However, they also expressed a concern that they don’t think hearings at the school district level are “fair”.

ISBA’s question:  If the IEA does not think hearings at the school district level are fair, how do they propose to correct that and should it be a part of this bill?  Would moving the language as they have requested be enough for them to support the bill?

One Year Agreements.  This bill will require that all master agreements have a beginning date of July 1 and an end date of June 30.  It will prohibit the use of what is commonly known as the “evergreen clause”.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  We have not yet discussed this piece of legislation.

Reduction in Force/Seniority.  This bill sets out the procedures for reduction in force.  It will allow the board of trustees the ability to include any factors, and not be limited to just seniority.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  We have not yet discussed this piece of legislation.

Proof of 50% + 1:  This part of a bill would require the local education organization (LEO) to prove they represent 50% + 1 of the certified staff in their district.  They would need to do this annually and would need to provide written evidence on a form approved by the school district.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  They are objecting to providing proof annually.  They believe they should only have to do this once.  It should be noted that the local union uses a “card check” system.  They get employees to sign a card that says they can represent them in negotiations.  If an employee no longer wishes to have the union represent them, they can revoke the card.

ISBA’s question:  If we negotiate annually, then why should they not prove they represent 50% + 1 annually?

Majority Ratification:  Once an agreement is reached, both the school district and the LEO would need to provide written proof that the agreement has been ratified by their respective memberships.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  We were only able to discuss one part of the legislation but we have not yet discussed this piece of this legislation.

Contract Return Dates.  This bill allows for teacher contracts to be delivered in person, electronically, return receipt requested, or to send them by certified mail, return receipt requested.

IEA’s objection and/or solution:  In another piece of legislation, we move the date for contract issuance to July 1, rather than May 15.  The reason for that is so that contracts are issued after negotiations are completed.  IEA is concerned that if we keep the July 1 date and we send them electronically, that an employee may not have email or may not be checking email in the summer.  If they don’t sign and return the contract the employee could then lose their job for the next year.

IEA’s question:  If an employee is still under contract for the year they are in and they know that a contract will be coming sometime in July; shouldn’t they make arrangements for someone to sign on their behalf while they are gone?

Links to the Bills

 

Other ISBA legislation

Resolution # 1 – Funding

This resolution contains many elements – all related to funding of public education in some way.  Below is a breakdown of the pieces we are currently working on:

Students Come First Repeal and $30.1 million
This legislation has been printed in House Education.  HB65 will return these dollars back to school districts in the line items found in the original legislation.  We hope it will be heard in the next week or so.

Bringing Back Use it or Lose it on a Permanent Basis
It is our understanding that the IASA will be bringing this legislation forward.  The SDE assisted with writing the bill and it has been forwarded to their leadership.  We will stay in close contact with IASA and assist them in any way we can.  We will continue to support this legislation.

Lottery Funds and Building Maintenance
One of the elements found in our Resolution #1 was to move the Lottery Funds back into building maintenance rather that allowing it to be used as discretionary funds.  While the Governor’s proposed budget did make that change, Superintendent Luna’s budget proposal contained one-half of the replacement dollars.  He indicated that if approved, he will ask for full replacement next year.  We will support the Superintendent’s budget on this issue.

Business Personal Property Tax

This legislation continues to be a topic of discussion in the legislature.  We met again with the Governor and other stakeholders.  The Tax Commission brought back some information and has been tasked with bringing back some further clarification.

The latest proposal would hold school districts harmless for a very short period of time.  It would hold the district harmless until a supplemental levy expires or until a school district refinances their debt in an effort to get a lower interest rate.  As you know, levies are only in effect or one or two years.  So, at the most, a school district would be held harmless for two years.  We have, of course, expressed that this solution is not a reasonable one for school districts and will fight any such proposal.

While we continue to have discussions, we encourage you to be talking with your legislators on the financial impact to your local district if this tax is repealed with no long-term replacement dollars.

Charter School Oversight – Resolution #2

We have been working with the SDE, charter school entities, the Public Charter School Commission, and the IASA on several pieces of legislation that deal with charter schools.  We are pleased with most of the suggested amendments but continue to struggle with the issue of charter school facility funding.  There are currently three bills – one deals with oversight, one with authorizers, and one with facility funding.  Unfortunately, these bills will come as a package.  As usually happens, in order to get the oversight bill we want passed, we are going to need to make concessions on the facility funding.

Whether or not we can find a happy medium on facility funding has yet to be seen.  There have been several solutions offered.  One includes allowing charter schools to participate in the bonds that school districts pass, another includes setting up an account at the state level that charter schools can access for the guarantee of a loan, and the third includes a stipend to paid from the state level for each student in a charter school.  As you can imagine, none of these are particularly pleasing to us.  But, we believe that some legislation is going to move forward, so we are trying to part of the solution rather than simply objecting.

IDLA Funding – Resolution #4

Even though Superintendent Luna has already made his proposal for IDLA funding, it is my understanding that negotiations continue between the SDE and IDLA on what the funding may look like and the mechanism that will be used to fund IDLA.  We remain hopeful that it will be funded at a level that will be good for IDLA and school districts.  I hope to have more on this next week.

PERSI Retirement for Employees in Four Day School Weeks – Resolution # 5

We have had several meetings with PERSI and have discussed the issue with superintendents in four-day school weeks.  Because this is a rule amendment and not a legislative issue, we have a little more time to complete this.  We do believe that PERSI is making some assumptions that may not be accurate and thus affecting the retirement of four-day school week employees.  Once the legislature has slowed down, we will pursue this more fully.

Increasing Supplemental Levies to Three (3) Years – Resolution #7

This legislation would allow school districts to run a supplemental levy for 1, 2, or 3 years.  Currently, the maximum length of time for a supplemental levy is two years.  We have had this resolution before and have been unable to find a sponsor for the legislation.  The Boundary County School District is currently working to find a sponsor.

Non-Certificated Personnel Grievance – Resolution #8

We have this legislation drafted and are working with the Kellogg and Meridian School Districts to see if we can find suitable language that both school districts like and that we think we can get passed.  We will need to print this bill no later than next Monday so we hope to have the issues hammered out by Monday or Tuesday of this week.

Building Requirements for Non-Student Occupied Buildings – Resolution #17 from 2012

As I reported to you last week, we sent the legislation to the Division of Building Safety and the Public Works Contractors Licensing for their review before we asked for a print hearing.  They have indicated they will most likely object to the legislation as will the Associated General Contractors.  Despite the opposition, the sponsoring school district has secured a sponsor for the bill.

While we oftentimes run legislation that others object to, it becomes more difficult to pass when a state agency or board is objecting the bill.  As such, we have asked the sponsoring school district if they wish to continue.  If so, we will work with the sponsor to see if we can get the Committee Chair to give it print hearing.

Other legislation

HB0065

This legislation is discussed above but this is the bill that brings back the $30.1 million in funding for FY13 that was lost in the repeal of Students Come First.

 

HB0068

This legislation deals with those school districts that have a building that has been deemed unsafe by the Division of Building Safety but the school district is still unable to get a bond passed.  It clarifies several issues.  This legislation would amend section 33-909, Idaho code to specify that all approved projects remain under the purview of the panel until finalized. These changes will eliminate any jurisdictional conflicts with local agencies by specifying the Division of Building Safety’s responsibility in regards to inspection and issuance of certificates of occupancy.

 

HCR003

This is a concurrent resolution, not a statutory change.  This concurrent resolution requests that the State Board of Education commence rulemaking to provide that cursive handwriting be taught in the public schools of the State of Idaho.

 

SB1005

This legislation establishes a prohibition on the establishment of online class requirements for high school graduation by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education without the express authorization of the Idaho Legislature.

 

SB1026

While this legislation is not education related, if passed, it will have an impact on any referenda that may be brought forward in the future.  This legislation addresses the balance between urban and rural voters in the question of qualifying initiatives or referendums for the ballot. It would require collecting signatures of not less than 6 percent of registered voters in each of at least 22 Idaho legislative districts, provided that the total number of signatures equals at least 6 percent of the number of registered voters in the state.

SB1028

This bill would end the pilot phase for the Mastery Advancement Program, removing language limiting the availability to school districts and the duration of the program.

Link to Legislation:

If you want to view the actual language of any piece of legislation, click here.  You can search by topic or the actual bill number.