The north Idaho state senator who helped shepherd wide-reaching changes to the state’s public education system says he thinks voters won’t strike down the reform efforts and that state education leaders must now get started rolling out the policies and rules to that follow the changes of the laws.
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, sponsored the “Students Come First” plan from Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, and chairs the Senate Education Committee, which formally introduced the legislation of the plan, heard the most testimony on the education reform package and cast the narrowest votes on package.
Goedde told IdahoReporter.com he’s glad the legislative session is over, and called it a difficult session to manage. Now that lawmakers are done and the reform package has been signed by Gov. Butch Otter, Goedde said the next step is implementing the reforms.
The implementation plan includes creating technology task force with 29 members. Luna would lead the task force and appoint the majority of its members. That task force, which would handle issues including online courses and distributing laptops or similar computers to high school students, must report back to lawmakers next year, but Goedde said he’d like to see it stay in place for longer.
Goedde said another big part of the implementation of the reforms will be instructing school boards on how to set policies they now have sole discretion to decide. “Bell times and things like that that are in master agreements now will be set by schools boards by adoption of policy,” said Goedde, a former school board member. “It may not be much different than what’s in master agreements.”
In addition to redrawing the negotiating lines between school boards and teachers and increasing spending on technology such as laptops, the reform package lowers the salary formula for educators while adding pay for performance bonuses for teachers and administrators.
Goedde said he’s already hearing from some teachers interested in the pay-for-performance bonuses and other parts of the plan.
One part of the roll out of the plan could be a requirement that high school students take some online classes before graduating. Luna was quoted in the New York Times saying four online classes would be the starting number, but he later said he was misquoted. Goedde said any permanent changes could start with the State Board of Education, but would need input from lawmakers.
Goedde also said that he will be meeting with U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss Idaho’s reform efforts.
The response to the new laws isn’t all positive. Shortly after becoming law, opponents filed a referendum that could lead to an up-or-down vote by Idahoans on the plan in November 2012. On Monday, paperwork was also filed for a recall election for Luna and some Boise lawmakers who supported the new laws.
Goedde said the referendum to repeal the efforts could well make it onto the 2012 ballots, saying it would take the signatures of every teacher and three of their friends. However, he said the referendum may well fail on election day.
Goedde sponsored the legislation and had a hand in some of the changes, which came after days of hearings with input from people who came to the Capitol, but the plan originally came from Luna. Goedde said he might have created the legislation differently, but he questions whether a change in the process would’ve led to a different final package.
On other issues, Goedde said lawmakers handled the budget well, considering the revenue available. He said he’s planning to come back next year with legislation dealing with charter schools’ enrollment policies as well as state and local agencies with self-funded workers compensation programs, which could have negative long-term repercussions.