Friday, March 4, 2011

Ed bills pass despite funding woes

Full House to consider 2 of 3 reform proposals

Express Staff Writer

The House Education Committee voted in support of two major parts of schools Superintendent Tom Luna's education reforms on Thursday, despite lawmakers' concerns that funding for at least one of the bills is nonexistent.

The first bill, which would limit the negotiating power of teachers unions while limiting contracts, is estimated to save the state $9.4 million annually. The second bill sets up a pay-for-performance system estimated to cost $38 million for fiscal year 2013, a cost that would spike to $51.3 million in 2014.

Savings in the third part of Luna's plan, primarily from laying off some 770 teachers, were meant to offset the merit-pay costs. However, the third bill stalled in a Senate committee on Tuesday, leaving the source of funding for the second bill undetermined.

"I really don't know how any of us in good conscience can pass this bill when we have such severe deficits," said Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, in committee on Thursday. "It's irresponsible, and it's not the way this legislature generally acts."

Nevertheless, the committee voted 13-5 in favor of sending the bills to the full House, where they could be heard as early as next week.

"This will be some of the best money we can spend on education," said Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle.

Katherine Wutz:

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