The Spokesman-Review Editorial:  Idaho Schools Superintendent Tom Luna could not resist an opportunity last week to beat up the Idaho Education Association for alleged lies about “Students Come First,” his controversial program to substitute online learning for live teaching, implement merit pay and put an end to collective bargaining.

He told Republicans gathered for their annual state convention the teacher organization was not, for example, informing members their average pay will go up by about $2,000 when his plan is fully implemented.

In fact, there is a good chance that it will not unless the economy produces significantly more revenue for the state than it does today.

Luna’s reform package carved funds for implementation of online learning out of teacher salaries, which have been frozen for four years. The glimmer of an economic upturn was enough to prompt a unanimous state Senate to eliminate further cuts, with the state assuming whatever costs computer learning caused.

Luna wrote a letter to the Education Committee calling the change “good news.”

But the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Bob Nonini, of Coeur d’Alene, instead established priorities for future education funding that put computers ahead of teachers.

You cannot blame teachers for believing the day when their paychecks emerge from the shadow of Apple, or whomever becomes Idaho’s school technology vendor, will be some years in the future. The Legislature bumped total state and federal spending on K-12 education less than one-half of one percent for the next school year, although the increase from the state’s own general fund is a more substantial 4 percent. Total spending fell 10 percent combined for the last two years.

Until the state starts receiving bids for computers and related teaching materials, the potential cost is unknown to Luna or anybody else.

And, also last week, 21 school districts imposed contracts on local teacher bargaining units. Last year, out of Idaho’s 130 districts, two imposed contracts. Before that, it was unheard of.

Luna called that “positive news” because there were no strikes, walkouts or litigation. That’s not much of a grading curve.

The teachers are fighting back with a November referendum that would repeal Luna’s reforms. With little recourse available from the Legislature, and none at all at the bargaining table, they have only one other option: to vote with their feet. If they have spouses with jobs, or mortgages in excess of their home’s value, they must stay put.

But why would students – the best students – emerging with education degrees want a job in a state that spends less per student on K-12 education than any state but Utah? Why should they aspire to a system that rewards computer vendors before it rewards them?

How much more “good” and “positive” news can they stand?

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