BOISE -- There was a heated debate on education reform at the StatehouseThursday as the full Senate voted on two controversial bills backed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.
Senators passed bills 1108 and 1110 Thursday, both on 20-15 votes, with eight Republicans joining seven Democrats to vote against the bills.
Senate Bill 1108 eliminates tenure for new teachers, restricts collective bargaining and limits labor agreements to one year.
After Senate Democrats insisted that the entire bill be read aloud, which took about an hour, and a motion from Sen. Diane Bilyeu to postpone the voting failed, the debate began and passions flowed.
Proponents, all Republicans, argued that the bill puts power to manage their teachers back into the hands of school districts by allowing them to reward good teachers and remove bad teachers.
No one should be above dismissal, said Sen. James Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene. We're not in the business here in government of providing jobs to teachers. We're in the business of providing an education to our children.
The bills' opponents, who came from both parties, argued the bill is an attack on teachers and will discourage talented teachers from staying in the Gem State.
Senate Bill 1108, in my opinion, is the beginning of dismantling our current public schools in Idaho by punishing teachers, said Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello. That's really what it does, and you know, the public knows it.
Once the Senateapproved Senate Bill 1108, it took up Senate Bill 1110, a bill that introducesmerit pay for teachers.
This bill addresses teachers pay based on three major areas: performance, leadership and hard-to-fill positions.
Senatorsin support of it say this finally recognizes and rewards Idaho's teachers in a way that they've been wanting for some time.
We know that education is a process, therefore we will reward teachers for progress their students make each year, not just on how many pass the test, said Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene.
Today I think is one of the most exciting days in Idaho history where we've had the nerve and the internal fortitude to stand up and say it's time to do it right and it's time to make that change, said Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth.
Opponents questioned the methods of how teachers and students will be measured, as well as how the bill will be funded.
There is one annual test upon which teachers are based, their performance component is based. One annual test, said Sen. Nicole LaFavour, D-Boise. Now it might seem like anOK thing to test students annually, and to see where they are, except when you consider the realities of a classroom teacher, and a reality of a subject matter that kids consider from one year to the next.
I applaud the effort to encourage improvement in improved performance, Sen Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow. We've been cautioned only to speak about what is in this bill, and there's no funding in this bill.
The two bills that passed the Senate are connected with the biggest piece of the plan,Senate Bill 1113. It is the $500 million funding arm of all three bills. Italso boosts technology in the classroomand requires online courses.
That bill has been sent back to the Senate Education Committeefor reworking.
Rep. Bob Nonini, the chairman of the House Education Committee, tells us bills 1108 and 1110 are scheduled to be heard Tuesday morning starting at 8a.m.
Superintendent Tom Luna called Thursday a great day for Idaho and says he is committed to getting all three bills on the Governor's desk.
I think it's important all three of these bills get done right. That's why you've seen we've made over 20 changes since the plan was first announced, we take testimony, meet with people and we hear ideas that make them better, Luna said.
He believes the Senate could pass the third bill, 1113, sometime next week.