Yes. the Luna Laws are Unfunded Mandates - Rep. Shirley Ringo

By Shirley Ringo

As a retired teacher and current legislator, I support providing school districts the best in educational technology. I agree that it is important to maintain professional development programs for teachers in the ever-changing world of technology. Legislators must take responsibility to act, but support for educational technology need not be linked to the seriously flawed Luna laws.

Shirley-Ringo
Rep. Shirley Ringo

Reports that schools are receiving state money for the purchase of computers and professional development for teachers related to integration of technology into instruction should be viewed with skepticism.

Much of that money is shifted from state support for teacher compensation. A formula determines the amount of state money dedicated to compensation each year. Because of the Luna laws, the amount determined by this formula is automatically reduced by 1.67% each year – $15 million dollars. In addition, legislators captured over $12 million by voting to “freeze” two years of salary credit teachers receive for additional teaching experience. Thus money sent to districts for teacher support is reduced by over $27 million. That is how some of the technology funding is obtained.

Rural districts are particularly hard hit by deficiencies in state funding. The result is either forced staff reductions and larger numbers of students per class, or increases in local property taxes to avoid drastic cuts. In other words, local districts are forced to help pay for technology through significantly lower state support in other areas.

Technology offers a great instructional tool. However, the importance of an excellent teacher in the classroom has long been recognized. It is not old-fashioned to believe this continues to be true. Schools are harmed if teachers are sacrificed to pay for computers.

[It is true] that, at a cost of just under $1 million per year, the state now provides funding for all Idaho students to take college entrance exams. If this increases the number of Idaho students going on to some form of higher education, it may be a good investment but we don’t need the flawed Luna laws to provide this opportunity. Also note that we cannot ignore the importance of better higher education funding to make post-high school education affordable and accessible.

The “Pay for Performance” plan from the Luna laws leaves much to be desired. Although the appropriation for this school year shows about $39 million for its implementation, as detailed above there are offsetting reductions in state support for teacher compensation of about $27 million. The Luna laws’ Pay for Performance plan offers no permanent salary increases. The plan merely involves yearly bonuses, which an individual may not be awarded in succeeding years. A leadership bonus can be awarded to only 25% of the staff, so deserving educators may not receive it. For example, the National Board Certification program is of particular value for professional development. Under Idaho law, all teachers who completed this respected program used to receive a $2000 stipend for a period of five years. (Many states have stronger incentives.) Unfortunately, under the Luna laws, this stipend was dropped and these teachers merely qualify to be considered for the leadership bonus. Since these are limited to 25% of the staff, no incentive for this achievement is guaranteed.

The Luna laws were hatched with minimal input from experienced educators and community. We want the best for Idaho students, but the Luna laws do not take us down the right path. Let’s reject them and work together for a better plan – one that we all trust.

Vote NO on Propositions 1, 2, and 3.