Friday, October 26, 2012

Education laws provide needed reforms


We will be failing our students if Idaho doesn’t demand a better education and preparation so our kids can compete on the world’s stage. The “Luna laws” have given local school boards more control over budgets and hiring. There have been many commercials falsely portraying Idaho’s Students Come First laws. These laws were passed with bipartisan support.

National teachers unions are spending millions in Idaho in an effort to kill Idaho’s education reform because they phase out tenure and limit collective bargaining to salaries and benefits. Before the Luna laws went into effect, a teacher earned tenure after only three years of teaching. Should taxpayers pay for guaranteed employment for teachers after only three years? Is that fair to the rest of us who work year-round with no guarantees from year to year, or month to month? Is tenure good for students?

What’s on the ballot? Idaho voters can vote to retain the Students Come First Laws by voting yes and to repeal the laws by voting no.

Proposition 1:

- Limits the Idaho Teachers’ Association’s collective bargaining to pay and benefits.

- Requires negotiations to be conducted according to Idaho’s open meetings law.

- Limits contracts to one or two years.

- Phases out tenure.

Proposition 2:

- Provides for merit pay for teacher performance based on state-mandated test scores, student performance and for hard-to-fill positions. (All merit pay coming this November goes away if the laws are repealed.)

Proposition 3:

- Requires school districts to prepare students for 21st-century jobs by providing high school students with mobile computing devices.

( Requires high school students to take at least two online classes to graduate.

Jason Hancock, Tom Luna’s deputy assistant and author of the legislation, said providing mobile devices to high school students has been implemented in 15,000 schools across America and the breakage rate is only about 1.6 percent. Hancock pointed out that school districts can save boatloads on textbooks by purchasing online versions.

The biggest myths being told by union leaders:

- Computers will replace teachers. I counter that working with computers involves constant learning. Our students will need teachers to help them navigate the cyber world. Technology in the schools is one more tool for teachers. Students will need these skills to get a job, further their education, and become lifelong learners.

- Teacher salaries were lowered to pay for technology and merit pay. According to Hancock, only 1.6 percent of teacher salaries were held back for merit pay. However, tax revenues increased enough to fund merit pay using new tax dollars. Unions falsely blame the Students Come First Laws for education cuts that had to happen because of the recession. This is not the case, according to Hancock.

Are the Students Come First Laws perfect? No, far from it, but it’s a positive step toward improving our schools. You can learn more at

Julie Lynn is a resident of Ketchum.

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