Friday, October 19, 2012

Reject the Luna Laws

A recent poll showed that supporters of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, collectively known as the “Luna Laws,” face some tough sledding. The poll, conducted for the Idaho Statesman, found that likely voters generally opposed two out of three of the laws with large percentages still undecided.

The laws deserve to fail.

They were passed in haste by an Idaho Legislature that was stampeded by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, whose campaign for office was supported by some of the very companies that may benefit from these laws.

No one but Luna, Gov. Butch Otter and overworked lawmakers had any hand in shaping the laws. They left out school boards, school administrators, teachers, parents and students—the very people most affected by the laws.

Supporters of the laws are portraying them as measures that will move schools out of the Dark Ages and into the enlightened Technology Age by equipping every student with a laptop computer. 

It’s a bait-and-switch tactic.

It would be one thing if Prop 3, the law on laptops, had been accompanied by big checks for local school districts to cover buying them, but it wasn’t. Instead, most districts will have to reduce the number of teachers on the job in order to buy laptops.

Supporters claim the laws “put students first” even though the laws miss that goal entirely. Students need both computers and teachers, not one or the other. School districts know that students must have access to computers and are providing it.

Prop 3 also dictates that every student must take two online classes in order to graduate from high school. That sounds benign. However, the Luna Laws assume that online classes will replace the need for teachers—a spurious assumption and a danger to kids’ education.

The laptops are the bait the Luna Laws use to attract support for what Props 1 and 2 really are: blunt weapons to bust the state teachers union and to muzzle teachers by removing any ability to negotiate class sizes and curriculum. That’s not just bad for teachers; it’s bad for kids, families and communities.

The Luna Laws are a cheapskate’s dream. They open the door for school boards to play fast and loose with teachers’ jobs by eliminating job security.

Parents and school patrons should think hard about whether they want teachers free to concentrate on delivering a good education or to teach every day wondering if some quirk of school politics may suddenly leave them jobless.

The main thing that recommends the laws is a requirement that teacher contracts be negotiated in public.

Vote “No” on Props 1, 2 and 3 and send Luna and the Legislature back to the drawing board.

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