BOISE -- A new version of a controversial bill is likely to be introduced this Friday in the State Affairs Committee. It's the third piece of Superintendent Tom Luna's education reform proposal, which stalled in committee after massive protests to mandatory online courses and increased class sizes.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Senator John Goedde (R-Coeur d'Alene) says the new version of the education reform bill will have a lot of changes. The biggest change is no mandate for cutting teaching positions or increasing class sizes. The original bill increased class sizes and eliminated 770 teaching positions.
Goette says getting rid of that mandate creates a funding hole because that piece is what paid for the already passed Pay for Performance bill and other budget items, like technology. Instead, districts will get less money and decide how to handle it.
This bill gives local school districts the responsibility of finding how best that formula fits in their own district, whether it's less teachers or furlough days for teachers or some change in benefits or some combination of all those three, it will be up to local trustees to make the tough decisions, Education Committee Chairman Senator John Goedde (R-Coeur d'Alene) said.
Though the bill hasn't been rolled out, some opponents of the last bill say the changes likely won't be enough.
Saying that you're leaving it up to districts is a big smokescreen because if you cut their funding by stealing it for technology, you're still forcing them to increase class sizing because you take away their money for teachers, Senator Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise) said.
Another change from the original bill, Goedde says high schoolers won't be required to take online courses. He says the State Board of Education will make rules on online courses and other use of the Internet in education. That would include the Board reviewing online class options to make sure they fit Idaho requirements.
The new bill will not include giving each student a laptop, at least not right away. Teachers would get laptops in the first year of the program (2013), and students would start getting them over the following three years.
Once an educator has a laptop and knows what it can do and feels comfortable, I think there will be less resistance to incorporate technology into their lesson plans, Goedde said.
Although Goedde says those are some big changes from the original bill, he doesn't consider them concessions to his goal of having affordable 21st century classrooms.
Are we going to satisfy everyone's concerns? No, but I feel comfortable that we have not given away the real intent, the real direction of this. This is a real reform piece. It's not going to be comfortable, but it will, from my impression, move our state forward, Goedde said.
Goedde says another big part of the new bill will be clarifying the role of what would be called a Technology Task Force. Luna would appoint a variety of people, like teachers, superintendents, and techology experts, to decide specifically how techology will be implemented.
Luna's office says he has worked closely with legislators in crafting this bill and is comfortable with the changes. His spokesperson says these bill changes are the result of listening to feedback and testimony over the last few weeks.