As we close out 2012 and move into 2013, in the education world, it is time to start thinking about the legislature. 2013 brings many new legislators and some changes in both leadership and the education chair and co-chair in the House Chamber. With change comes opportunity and sometimes challenge. The Idaho School Boards Association (ISBA) staff and board members will be working to introduce ourselves to the new members and to re-establish relationships with the new leadership and chairs. Along with introductions, we will also be advising legislators about the initiatives that have been passed by the ISBA membership. Those initiatives are decided by the resolution process that occurs at the annual Business Session of the entire Association.
ISBA resolutions are in effect for two years. As such, ISBA has four resolutions that were passed at the 2011 Business Session and eight resolutions from the 2012 Business Session that are still in effect. Our job will be to secure the success of those resolutions.
First and foremost, ISBA will be working toward funding issues. With the failure of the Students Come First (SCF) laws, there were several funding issues that were effected. About $23 million in funds were diverted from school districts back to the general fund. Those reductions addressed issues that allowed students to take dual enrollment courses so they could graduate early, the ability for school districts to hire fewer teachers than are being funded by the state so those funds can be used for day-to-day operations, and technology dollars. Because of the other reductions in funding that school districts have faced over the past few years, it is imperative that ISBA works to return as much of that funding back to school districts as possible.
ISBA will also be working with the Public Employees Retirement System (PERSI) on an issue that deals with accrued sick leave for teachers and other employees in school districts that have moved to 4-day school weeks. PERSI calculates the value of all unused sick leave days by using an “equitable adjustment” factor. Even though the employees in 4-day school weeks are working the same number of hours as those in 5-day school weeks, the 4-day school week employee’s unused sick leave is reduced by 20% when the equitable adjustment is applied. ISBA’s resolution asks that we work with PERSI to develop an equitable adjustment formula that credits employees for the time those employees were working a 5-day school week.
Another resolution passed by the ISBA membership addresses labor issues in school districts. These issues are actually ones that ISBA has been addressing for several years. The resolution passed by the ISBA membership in 2012 addresses ten separate elements ranging from holding negotiations in open session to allowing school boards to continue the orderly and open business operations of the districts should an agreement between the district and the local negotiating team not be reached by June 10 of each year.
In addition to these issues, we will also be participating on the Governor’s newly appointed task force discussing education issues related to student achievement. While we look forward to this dialogue with other education stakeholders, we believe the issues this task force will be discussing will be separate from the issues outlined above and that ISBA will be pursuing.
There will be those who agree and those who disagree with the initiatives that ISBA brings forward. We will do our best to reach consensus where we can and we will always engage in discussions with those who will be impacted by the legislation even if they disagree. Good legislation comes from such discussions.
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ISBA staff and board members will always advocate for the best interests of school districts as outlined by the initiatives passed by our membership. The most effective way to do that is to have good relationships with legislators, Governor’s Office staff, and State Department and State Board of Education staff. Those relationships allow ISBA to be fully informed on the issues that will be presented and to always have a seat at the table. That allows ISBA to be effective in their initiatives and pursuits.
Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments.