Idaho teachers unions protest against proposed cuts

SALMON, Idaho Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:04am EST

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SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - Hundreds of people rallied in Boise and ten other Idaho cities on Monday to protest a plan by the state's schools chief to lay off hundreds of teachers and curtail their collective bargaining.

Russ Chinske, head of the teachers union in the central Idaho town of Salmon, said it was wrong to strip teachers of their job protections.

"It's not a wise thing to fire people on a whim, especially the people dedicated to educating your children," he said.

The rallies were organized by the Idaho Education Association, which groups more than 12,000 elementary and secondary school teachers. At issue is Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's proposed overhaul of the public education system for kindergarten through high school.

Luna's plan would cut more than 750 teaching positions and remove from collective bargaining such provisions as class sizes, teacher workload and promotions. It also would ban collective bargaining unless the teachers union could prove it represented more than 50 percent of workers.

It would eliminate seniority as a factor in teacher layoffs and replace tenure for some current and all future teachers with one- or two-year contracts. The minimum teacher salary would rise to $30,000.

Luna's proposal is spelled out in a package of three bills that cleared a key state senate panel on Thursday and could be voted on by the full Senate as early as this week.

"Whether the trio of bills reaches the Senate floor Tuesday, later this week, or next week, Monday's rallies sent another statewide message of strong opposition to Luna's legislation," the IEA said on its web site on Monday.

But endorsement by the legislature's Republican leaders and Governor Butch Otter puts the proposal on track to become law.

Luna says the changes will save millions of dollars as the state is facing a projected shortfall of $90 million in tax revenues to fuel its budget.

"We must change the way we spend what we currently have," Luna said in a statement.

Governor Otter and Luna, who is in his second term as the elected head of Idaho schools, last week decried acts of "hostility and vandalism" aimed at Luna.

That came after someone slashed the tires on Luna's truck and spray-painted it with graffiti.

(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman. Editing by Peter Bohan)

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Comments (2)
go2goal wrote:
The Republicans have always been the big spenders….this nationwide program has been hatched and orchestrated by the likes of Charles and David Koch. The Republicans are literally declaring war against the last remaining powerful workers union in the country…the teachers union….so they will have greater control over elections.

The data doesn’t lie to us….economic history over the past 50 years is very clear…Democrats do not create deficits….Republicans do.

The American oligarchs like the Koch brothers are creating deficits across the country as their excuse to bust teachers unions…..and to also cut public education. The Kochs don’t attend public schools….they attend Deerfield Academy at $ 50 K plus per year.

The US Middle class needs to unite and fight back against the US Oligarchs…the Republicans and the Tea Party are enemies of the US worker.

Feb 22, 2011 1:02am EST  --  Report as abuse
afreevoter wrote:
This isn’t a left vs a right thing. It is simple economics. Public union employees have been getting 3 – 4 times the Consumer Price Index increases in wages, health care benefits and pensions for many years. It is unsustainable and the current economic situation is forcing both Democratic and Republican run states to address the problem.

Democrats have a harder time addressing the problem because they are dependent on the public Unions for their political contributions (funded by taxpoayer dollars and collective bargaining).

State’s, Counties, Cities and even the Federal Government has to learn to live within their means. If your revneues go down 15%, you have to cut your expenses by 15% or you get further in debt. The problem is that public employee pensions are not defined contribution plans (401ks for example), but are in most cases underfunded and growing by double digits each year, they need to be changed or all states will go bankrupt – which will result in the ability of each bankrupt state to dishonor the pensions and restructure everything.

Those public employees that recognize the problem will want a solution sooner than later because the longer you avoid addressing the problem the worse the solution will be for everyone.

Feb 22, 2011 2:22am EST  --  Report as abuse
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