Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Education reforms to be put to the vote

Propositions deal with unions, merit pay and technology


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Proponents refer to the measures as “Students Come First,” while opponents often refer to them as “the Luna Laws.” Either way, Idaho voters will have the chance come Nov. 6 to approve or reject each of the measures, which are described on the ballot as Propositions 1, 2 and 3.

A vote of yes on the propositions would uphold three pieces of legislation affecting education in Idaho that were introduced by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and approved by the Legislature last year.

A vote of no on each of the propositions would repeal them.

A simple majority wins.

The propositions ended up on the ballot through a massive petition drive led mainly by the Idaho Education Association, the state umbrella organization for various local teachers unions.

Information on the three complex propositions is readily accessed through an Internet search. An Idaho Voter’s Pamphlet, published by the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office, was distributed by mail throughout the state in an attempt to explain the issues.

A simple explanation of Proposition 1 is that it reduces the power of teachers’ unions in negotiations with school districts. Further, it removes tenure as a consideration in the event of teacher layoffs.

Opponents of Proposition 1 have called the measure a “union buster” that will hurt teachers in Idaho.

Proponents of Proposition 1 claim the measure restores decision-making to school boards and parents.

Proposition 2 implements a pay-for-performance plan, based upon student performance on achievement tests, into teacher salary structures that previously have been based solely on tenure and education levels.

Opponents of Proposition 2 claim the law forces teachers to “teach to the test.”

Proponents of Proposition 2 claim the law provides a way to reward teachers for high performance.

Proposition 3 deals with technology and provides for state purchase of laptop computers for all high school students and teachers in the state. It requires that high school students complete two online courses as a graduation requirement.

Opponents of Proposition 3 claim the law is an attempt to “replace teachers with laptops” and that the money to be spent on computer acquisition could be better spent in classrooms.

Proponents of Proposition 3 claim the law provides laptop computers to cash-strapped school districts that would otherwise not be able to afford them.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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