Idahoans debate controversial education referendums

MOSCOW, ID - Ballot referendums are never as easy as one, two, three.

That's why Moscow's League of Women Voters held a forum to educate Latah County voters about Propositions One, Two and Three. These propositions are controversial because they're all about the hot topic of education.

"We would like to have a good quality teacher in every classroom in every school in Idaho," said Referendum Supporter Darrel Deide. "That's when we will have good schools. We don't have it today."

Supporters believe that these laws will change that by allowing school boards the ability to assemble better teaching staffs. Proposition One limits contracts between teachers and school boards and eliminates the practice of issuing renewable contracts. Opponents of the proposition said that this restricts teachers and school boards.

"They limit the scope of negotiations to compensation only," said referendum opponent Shirley Ringo. "All details of master agreements having to do with anything other than compensation will be null and void."

Proposition Two deals with teacher pay. If passed, teachers would be paid based upon state-mandated test scores, student performance, hard-to-fill positions and leadership. Both sides agree that teachers are the most important part of a child's education.

"This proposition supports that," said Deide. "Rewards teachers with bonuses who work in hard-to-fill-positions such as math and science, or take on leadership roles."

But those opposed say that these non-negotiable bonuses place too much value on standardized test scores and are a one-size-fits-all plan that won't work for all Idaho teachers. Proposition Three amends school district funding to require that schools provide students with computer devices and require students to complete online courses in order to graduate from high school. Opponents are concerned that it wasn't approached the right way.

"This is a huge decision for Idaho," said Ringo. "The enormity of it demands plenty of input, statewide hearings even, but we got a decision hatched behind closed doors."

The debate was heated, with both sides communicating their concern for Idaho's children.