Many school districts in Idaho are negotiating teacher contracts. And because of the Students Come First education laws that passed last year, those negotiations now have to be done in full view of the public.
Before Students Come First all the public usually saw of school district contracts was the finished agreement. Now you can watch every offer and counter-offer, and every back and forth of the negotiation. This is the second year that’s been true. Students Come First went into effect in April of 2011. Many districts begin negotiations in April.
Allison Westfall with the Nampa School District says there's been a steep learning curve. “There were some questions that first year. Do you notice it like you do a school board meeting? How do you handle audience members?”
Since that first year the State Board of Education and the legislature have added to the law to try and clear up some of that confusion. This year Nampa’s negotiations are attracting some attention because of a budget shortfall of two and half million dollars. The district’s first proposal had six furlough days next year. The current proposal has no furloughs but does have cuts to staff, materials and transportation.
But Westfall says it’s not getting all that much attention. “We get a few audience members," she says. "When the negotiations began this we had a few more, but you know, the school year is winding down so the audience isn’t as full.”
Districts also have to make the minutes of contract negotiations available to the public. Many post them on-line. Nampa does and so does Meridian, which is also in the midst of the negotiation process. Boise finished its negotiations last month. Boise teachers will have five furlough days next school year.