Saturday, February 9, 2008

Whatever happened to iSTARS?

For those of you that followed the debate surrounding Superintendent Tom Luna's iSTARS proposal, but find yourselves at a loss for any closure I think we may have it. On Friday, in the House Education Committee, Chairman Bob Nonini enlightened all of us as to his information about the status of teacher pay discussions. Given the substantial impact of the proposals (the IEA also has one named weTEACH) it was vitally important that we know what we were up against before making a decision. As you may have already guessed, iSTARS as it was proposed is no more. Members of the Senate Education Committee were diligent in their consideration and ultimately concluded that it wasn't a prudent move, just as I did the first time I heard about it.

In the last couple of weeks a few things that I predicted have happened and they were daggers in iSTARS. My first contention was that iSTARS would collapse under its own weight. The economy has clearly slowed down and with several sectors underperforming revenues would certainly not be what were projected. Without the money to pay for the plan, it was not likely that the State would commit itself to such a huge financial liability in the face of so much uncertainty, nor should it.

My second contention, as I told a group of teachers (at a Boise Education Association meeting in the Media Center at Timberline High School) more than 3 months ago, it was clear to me that there were at least a couple of illegal or unconstitutional components to iSTARS. I specifically pointed to restrictions regarding the newly proposed Category IV contract, which removes a teachers continuing contract and replaces it with a one to three year contract. As I told the audience, I had serious questions of the legality of requiring a school district to accept a teacher’s contract status when the teacher moves from one district to another. By way of example, consider a teacher with a Category IV contract in the Meridian School District that moves to the Boise School District. Under iSTARS the Boise School District is obligated to maintain the Category IV contract. This immediately raised a red flag for me because it is the local school district, not the State of Idaho, which is the contractually obligated employer. The Attorney Generals opinion spoke specifically to this concern, agreeing with my contention.

I also questioned the suggestion by Supt. Luna that once a teacher opted into a Category IV contract he/she could revert back to a Category III contract should the funding for iSTARS cease. I questioned Supt. Luna directly about this matter and he had his budget director Jason Hancock, attempt to identify where it was within the language of the legislation that stipulated that this was the case. Needless to say, I never got a good answer and the Attorney Generals opinion concluded, as I contended, that this non existent and futhermore the concept was lacking legal grounding.

The irony, it seems to me, is that the Category IV contract turned out to be limestone around the neck of iSTARS rather than the life jacket it was proposed to be. That is, Supt. Luna insisted on several occasions that without the Category IV contract, iSTARS would be sunk because it wouldn't have the necessary buoyancy to keep it afloat throughout the legislative process. Ultimately, however, it was the Category IV contract that took iSTARS to it's watery grave.

1 comment:

sharon fisher said...

When I went to the initial iSTARS meeting, it was clearly and explicitly stated that once a teacher went to Category IV, they could not go back.