March 18, 2011 By Daniel C. Vock
Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter signed two bills Thursday that would significantly limit the clout of public teacher unions in the state. One limits the ability of teachers to collectively bargain and eliminates tenure for new teachers; the other allows districts to pay teachers based on their performance, The Associated Press writes.
The two new laws are part of a broader effort by state Superintendent Tom Luna to shake up the state's education system. A third piece of that plan is still working its way through the Legislature. That last piece calls for using more technology in classrooms, but opponents worry it could lead to bigger class sizes and the lay-offs for 770 teachers, the AP explains. Hundreds of teachers and students protested at the Idaho Capitol to criticize the proposals while lawmakers were debating them.
As Stateline reported last month, the "Idaho plan is perhaps the most far-reaching effort to use teachers’ rights and performance as part of a bid to revamp a state’s entire educational process."
Efforts to dilute the power of public employee unions have picked up steam across the country. The (Chattanooga) Times Free Press reports that a panel of the Tennessee House moved forward with efforts to limit the collective bargaining power of teachers there. In Tallahassee, a Florida House committee voted to make state workers pay 5 percent of their salary toward pensions while raising the retirement age of police and firefighters, the Miami Herald writes.
In New Jersey, the largest union of state employees tried to preempt Governor Chris Christie, a frequent critic, by offering to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs, the Star-Ledger reports. Christie has said he wants legislation to set employee contributions for health care, rather than have it be part of contract negotiations.
"Governor Christie professes to love collective bargaining, but we have yet to see it," said Bob Master, political director of the Communications Workers of America. "What’s going on in New Jersey is no different than what’s going on in Wisconsin and Ohio."
Article courtesy of Stateline.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news service of the Pew Center on the States that reports and analyzes trends in state policy.