Wednesday, March 9, 2011

House Passes Second Luna Bill, Governor Expected to Sign into Law

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 12:52 PM

The Idaho House has moved another Tom Luna bill to the head of the class.

In a 44-26 vote, the House sent Senate Bill 1110 to Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter for a certain signature. SB 1110 will introduce a new merit-pay system for Idaho teachers. The first year's cost is expected to be $38 million, with subsequent years costing more than $50 million.

Thirteen Republicans crossed the aisle to join 13 Democrats in opposing the bill. Republicans voting against the measure included: Representatives Ken Andrus, Maxine Bell, Carlos Bilbao, Darrell Bolz, George Eskridge, Tom Loertscher, Lynn Luker, Janice McGeachin, Mike Moyle (majority leader), Jeff Nesset, Leon Smith, Tom Trail and Richard Wills.

Here's a sampling of the three hours of debate preceding the noontime vote:

Republican Rep. Bob Nonini (sponsor of the bill): "The way we currently pay Idaho teachers is archaic."

Democratic Rep. Grant Burgoyne (opposed): "This is an untried and unproven way to compensate educators."

Republican Rep. Sharon Block (in favor): "Teachers deserve to be recognized for their good work."

Republican Rep. Janice McGeachin (opposed): "This is an unfunded mandate. We have not yet identified revenue to pay for this."

Sarah Bedke, filling in for injured husband, Republican Rep. Scott Bedke (in favor): "My husband is a champion for education reform. If he was able, he'd be talking about it here." (Bedke is recuperating from a farming accident.)

In response to the vote, the Idaho Education Association announced a series of afternoon protests across the state. In Boise, a human chain is expected to circle the Statehouse starting at 4:30 p.m. Similar rallies are planned in Buhl, Blackfoot, Driggs, Hailey, Idaho Falls, Ketchum, Kimberly, Lewiston, Moscow, Pocatello, Post Falls and Twin Falls.

Today's passage means Luna's three-part plan to overhaul K-12 education is two-thirds of the way home. The third and biggest piece of the reform package remains stalled in a Senate committee. It would cut hundreds of teaching jobs, increase classroom size and require online learning. Luna said he's confident a modified version of his original bill will be unveiled in a matter of days.

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