The Associated Press reports at least 21 Idaho school districts are unilaterally imposing contract terms on teachers after failing to reach agreement with local unions.

The districts’ ability to impose contracts without negotiating with unions comes under Idaho’s new school reform laws, which rolled back most collective bargaining rights for teachers and limited contracts to one-year terms. It also limited contract negotiations to salary and benefits only and shifted budget money from salaries to merit bonuses.

State Schools Superintendent Tom Luna said it was good news that just 21 out of 130 school districts and charter schools weren’t able to reach agreement by the deadline.

“They said there would be strikes, there would be walkouts, there would be lawsuits – none of that has happened,” Luna told The Spokesman-Review ( http://bit.ly/M99LEX). “If you measure this against the doomsday scenario that they painted, I think this is very positive news.”

Carrie Scozzaro, a high school art teacher and outgoing president of the Lakeland Education Association in Kootenai County, said teachers feel like they’re no longer being listened to as professionals.

“There’s that sort of hopelessness of not being part of the process and being accused of being part of the problem, which is frustrating,” she said.

In the Lakeland School District, 96 percent of the union members rejected the district’s last offer on salaries and benefits for the coming years. That offer, like the past four years, included no base salary increase but some small thaws in the multiyear pay freeze.

Other districts that unilaterally imposed contract terms include Kellogg, Mullan and Wallace in northern Idaho and Middleton, Cascade, Idaho Falls, Nampa and Caldwell in southern Idaho.

In 2011 – the first year the new laws were in effect – a couple of Idaho school districts unilaterally imposed contract terms. That hadn’t happened in the previous four decades that districts had met with local teachers associations for collective bargaining.

Luna said the laws give local school boards the authority to resolve labor and management disputes, which was in keeping with the concept of local control.

Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association, said members across the state are frustrated that the new talks are limited to salaries and benefits, preventing teachers from addressing issues like overcrowded classrooms and learning environments.

“That’s devaluing them as professionals who know what children need to succeed,” Cyr said.

Idaho voters will decide in November whether to keep the new law or repeal it through a referendum.

Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/06/21/2163502/21-idaho-districts-impose-teacher.html#storylink=cpy

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