BOISE -- The third bill attached to Superintendent Tom Luna's education reform plan has passed the Idaho House of Representatives, and is expected to be signed into law this week. But its ramifications are still the subject of debate.

Senate Bill 1184 will phase in laptops for teachers, and eventually for students. It pays for that, and a pay-for-performance plan already signed by the Governor, by shifting money in the public schools budget from salaries.

Opponents say this will mean cutting teacher jobs.

We know, that even though this bill doesn't mandate cuts to teachers, that will be the effect of this bill, said Rep. Brian Cronin (D - Boise).

Supporters say this bill gives districts the flexibility to handle the reduced funding for salaries any way they wish, perhaps by cutting some administrative positions or salaries.

It isn't all about teachers, said Bob Nonini (R - Coeur d'Alene). Debate against the bill had to do with replacing teachers with computers, and that's why I wanted to make a point. All these administrative positions are in salary-based apportionment too. I think a teacher in the classroom is important. You can't set a computer in there, and expect a computer to teach kids. We're going to need our good teachers to continue to work.

But according to Cronin, That's a question I asked in committee. I asked of the superintendents, 'Is there anything you can do with this so-called flexibility that this bill gives you? Can you do anything other than cut teachers, or cut teacher salaries?' The answer was no.

They have asked us for flexibility forthree andfour years now in the ed. budget, said Nonini. And we have given them all the flexibility they need. I think they'll make the right decisions. They're locally elected people on those school boards and I have a lot of confidence in them.

Our districts have been pinched for many years, said Cronin. There isn't a whole lot of fat to cut. Yes, we need to insist on efficiency for our public schools, but they're already there.

The previous two pieces of legislation tied to Luna's plan have already been signed into law. Those will limit collective bargaining for teachers, and introduce a pay-for-performance plan. Republicans are trying to get trailer bills passed that will put those laws into effect immediately.

Meanwhile, Democrats want to put the entire Education Reform plan to the people of Idaho for a vote.

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