BLACKFOOT, Idaho - Tom Luna, Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction, campaigned for education reform at Blackfoot City Hall on Thursday.
Luna said the idea behind Propositions 1, 2 and 3 is not whether Idaho schools are good -- they are. It's a question, he said, of whether to make our good schools better.
The state superintendent spoke to an intimate group of about 40 community members including educators, students and state legislators.
Luna has been adamant in affirming his position the education reforms will not raise property taxes in Idaho.
But with cuts to education, many districts around the state have had no choice but to pass supplemental levies which raise taxes for property owners in those districts.
Luna said the reforms, together called the "Students Come First" legislation, are fully funded at the state level.
"The fact is our school districts have received more money from the state and will continue to receive money from the state," said Luna. "The way the state has paid for these, is we're willing to spend some of the money we have, differently. "
Luna gave automatic teacher bonuses as an example. Those type of built-in bonuses been done away with to pay for Students Come First.
Blackfoot Education Association co-president Sarah Condon was at Thursday's meeting. She said these laws do not help Idaho children, they hinder.
"When the vast majority of professional educators are opposed to the laws, it's pretty obvious that it's not going in the right direction," said Condon.
Propositions 1, 2 and 3 were passed two years ago by the Idaho state legislature, and Condon said she can already see the effects.
"I think we've seen that a lot in Blackfoot, we've seen a lot of cuts because money's being withheld at the state level instead of reaching our children," she said.
On Nov. 6, Idaho voters will decide whether to keep the reform laws in place, or repeal them.
Here's what Propositions 1, 2, and 3 are about:
- Provides teacher contract negotiations must be done in public, not private. Teachers may only negotiate salaries and benefits – not things like class size or prep hours. And it phases out tenure.
- Awards merit pay (essentially bonuses for performance) for teachers whose students excel and teachers who take on more difficult assignments. This might include teachers who teach hard-to-fill classes.
- Provides in-classroom technology – a wireless laptop device – and requires students to take online courses before graduation from high school.
A "yes" vote on the propositions will keep the laws in place. A "no" vote will repeal them.