Friday, February 1, 2013

School boards pursue legislative plan


By LISA KNUDSON

As the elected leaders of each individual school district, school board members have a statutory, legal and fiduciary duty to oversee the finances and management of the school district. The Idaho School Boards Association, at the direction of the local trustees, will be pursuing and/or supporting several pieces of legislation during the 2013 legislative session that will enhance their ability to be good stewards of scarce taxpayers’ dollars.
    First, we will support legislation to replace funding removed because of budget reductions of the past few years as well as funding lost because of the defeat of the Students Come First legislation. Our economy is making a slow turn for the better, and it is important that public schools and their personnel begin to regain some of the lost ground from the past few years.
    Second, we will pursue legislation that codifies good public policies for open and orderly negotiations. That includes items like holding all negotiations in open session, requiring that the local education organization provide proof that it represents 50 percent plus one of the professional employees in the district and that its members have ratified any agreement. If the legislation is approved, it will allow local patrons to view all negotiations and to be assured that ratification will only occur when properly acted upon.
    Third, we will pursue legislation that will allow for the long-term, prudent fiscal management of each school district. Those items include the school board’s ability to operate under the terms of the district’s final offer to the local education organization should no agreement be reached; to provide for one-year negotiated agreements to adequately budget for each fiscal year; to have the ability to manage salaries of all personnel depending upon the district’s funding; and to increase the maximum length of term for a supplemental levy from two to three years.


The association has consistently held that local governance closest to the student is what is best.


    Other items that will give school board members the tools they need to manage their districts are to allow for other measures beyond seniority when considering reductions in workforce; to provide that if an employee appeals a decision to the district court, the court can only affirm, set aside or remand the matter back to the school board; and to allow the school board to place an employee on unpaid administrative leave if the employee is incarcerated or if there is a court order that does not allow the employee to be in the presence of minors or any adult employed by the district.
    It is also important to note what the School Boards Association will not be pursuing. We heard the complaints and concerns of the Idaho Education Association.  Its members consistently stated that they wanted to have the ability to negotiate items beyond salaries and benefits—items like class size and student safety. They were also concerned with the loss of continuing contracts. The trustees heard those concerns and they listened. The trustees understand and appreciate the employees in their districts. As such, the School Boards Association will not pursue any legislation on either of those topics.
    These legislative measures are items that the School Boards Association, on behalf of the locally elected trustees, has long pursued. The association has consistently held that local governance closest to the student is what is best. We believe the legislation we will pursue this session will do just that.


Lisa Knudson is vice chair of the Idaho School Boards Association’s Region 4.




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