ENDORSEMENT: Yes on Props 1, 2

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Proposition 1 has been derided by opponents as a mean-spirited attempt to wrest control away from teachers and the teachers union and instead put too much authority in the state's hands.

We agree that regretfully, some teachers have perceived it as mean-spirited, and we further agree that it absolutely takes authority away from the teachers union. But we support Prop 1 because we believe it has placed much more control in local hands - the hands of parents and school boards. And we also believe it has opened the window to a level of transparency that never existed here before, not even in this right-to-work state that has long rejected the mentality behind secretive collective bargaining sessions. We prize individual accomplishment and responsibility, and Prop 1 underscores those values.

A key component of Prop 1 is that all contract negotiation sessions between the teachers union and independent school boards must be conducted in public, and further that the only negotiable issues are pay and benefits. Opening this important process to public participation is an essential plank in the foundation of education reform - even when, alas, too few citizens avail themselves of the opportunities this change allows.

A provision of Prop 1 heavily weights student performance to teacher and administrator evaluations. It puts millions of dollars back into classrooms for teacher pay and more. But what draws the most ire from union supporters is that teacher tenure is now history - no more lifetime passes - and the practice of laying off the last teacher hired, rather than the teacher with the poorest performance record, is now short circuited. Now, the best teachers keep their jobs, regardless of age or seniority.

Proposition 2 is tantamount to increased accountability - and the rewards that should come with a job well done. Because determining who should be rewarded and how much cannot help but be somewhat subjective, critics will always have an opportunity to cry foul to a pay-for-performance plan. But we support Prop 2 because accountability must start somewhere, and this is a good beginning.

Prop 2 provides bonuses up to $8,000 a year for teachers who work in "hard to fill" jobs as determined by their respective school board. Further, teachers can earn extra money for showing strong leadership, like developing new educational programs or helping young teachers. Again, discretion is up to the local school board - not the state education department or the teachers union.

Finally, bonuses will go to teachers and administrators of schools whose students meet pre-determined academic growth measures. We believe this final point needs to be modified by the Idaho Legislature because, in some cases, entire schools that have performed well have been penalized for not showing significant growth. But even with its shortcomings, Proposition 2 represents an advance for professional responsibility and accountability in public education - ideals that most Idahoans hold dear.

We urge voters to say "Yes" to Propositions 1 and 2, and just as importantly, to show respect for teachers as they deal with challenging times.

SUNDAY: Proposition 3

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