COEUR d'ALENE - School trustees in Coeur d'Alene on Monday voted unanimously to, as a board, support the Idaho School Boards Association's efforts to lobby state lawmakers for legislation that would tighten Idaho's right to work statute in the state's schools.
It was one of the last official acts of the board before June 30, when the terms of three trustees - Ann Seddon, Brent Regan and Jim Hightower - come to an end, and their seats are filled with three newly elected board members.
"I was the one that asked to have this included in the agenda," said Tom Hamilton, board chair.
Hamilton said that in order for the Idaho School Boards Association to bring suggested legislation forward in Boise, the organization needs a sponsoring school board.
"I think it's pretty self-explanatory," he said.
Right to work prohibits employers from requiring union membership as a requirement of employment.
Cindy Omlin, director of Northwest Professional Educators (NWPE), a non-union organization that collects dues in exchange for advocacy and liability insurance for educators observed the meeting, but did not address the board. The group does not get involved in collective bargaining.
There are teachers in the Coeur d'Alene School District that belong to NWPE, however, more than half of the certified staff are CEA members by choice.
Several members of the Coeur d'Alene Education Association, the local teachers union, spoke in opposition to the resolution.
"This resolution may serve a valuable purpose," said Derek Kohles, who will be taking over as CEA president in July.
Kohles told the board the resolution could help to remind employees that the CEA is the "best local option" for support and representation for educators. He said the CEA has a long history of representing and serving teachers in Coeur d'Alene, and said they've developed a "strong collaborative model."
He suggested that a better use of the board's time might be to work in partnership with the CEA to advocate for increased funding from the Legislature for Idaho's K-12 schools.
Kristi Milan, the current CEA president, pointed out that the resolution document states "schools should be free of bullying behaviors against both students and adults," and then in the next section, indicates school districts should "facilitate educators' access to information about professional educator association alternatives for providing liability insurance and legal services for employment rights issues."
"Liability insurance does not prevent bullying," she said.
Milan said the CEA has worked with many school boards over the past 40 years to develop the master contract between the teachers and the board.
"This contract provides anti-bullying for every certified personnel stated in the master contract," she said.
However, all certified employees are included in the CEA's representation, she said, even those who choose not to join the union.
"One might say they are getting something for nothing," Milan said. "That is the real story of being a right to work state."
Kohles questioned whether the board wants to be in the position of taking a political stand to accomplish something for the ISBA.
Brent Regan made the motion that they pass the resolution, and all five board members voted in favor of it.