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BOISE -- State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's education reform plan took another step toward becoming law Thursday as two of the three billsin the plan moved through the House Education Committee.

While arguably the biggest chunk of the education reform plan continues to be stuck inthe Senate Education Committee, the rest ofthe planis now closer to being on the governor's desk.

Two bills to eliminate tenure for new teachers, restrict collective bargaining and introduce merit pay were passed out of the House Education Committee on Thursday, with identical 13-5 votes. Two Republicans, along with all three Democrats, voted against the legislation.

There are very fundamental concerns about this plan, the way it's going to be implemented, what motivated this plan, etc... and despite that, today's House Education Committee passed these two bills with not a whole lot of opposition, said Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise.

Cronin argued that the bills seemed to identify teachers as a problem with the education system and would punish them. Luna disagrees, saying that his plan depends on teachers.

Good teachers, great teachers, they have nothing at all to worry about when it comes to these bills, said Luna. It's going to be an opportunity for our great teachers in Idaho to make up to an $8,000 bonus over and above what they're currently making. The solution and the answer to making sure that every child is successful everyday is making sure we have a great teacher in the classroom everyday.

Luna also received criticism for introducing the whole plan and allegedly changing his tune from the campaign trail to after the election.

We had heard that we were doing relatively well, that our students were performing better, said Cronin. Then in January we hear that our students are in grave trouble, that they're not performing very well, and we need to radically reshape this education system.

Phasing out tenure, removing seniority as a criteria for reduction in force policies, pay for performance for teachers, I've been talking about these things for 15 years, said Luna. I got involved in education as an agent of reform, and this is just an effort down that path.

Some lawmakers had concerns about how the pay-for-performance element might be funded when the funding arm of the plan is still in a Senate committee.

But Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath says no actual teacher bonuses will be handed out this fiscal year. So, if need be, they can address that next year.

Luna still believes a third bill will get to the governor's desk.

The two bills approved by the House Education Committee today now move on to the full House of Representatives, and if they're approved there, they are expected to be signed into law by the governor.

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