Idaho law favors tech over teacher salaries

A previous version of the legislation was reworked amid concerns about provisions that would have equipped high school students with laptops and required four online course credits to graduate.

Under the revised bill that was signed into law Friday, students starting in the ninth grade would eventually get laptops, but teachers will get them first along with training on how to incorporate the devices into class work.

The new bill directs the state Board of Education to draft standards governing the online course requirements, though Luna said four online credits will be the starting point.

“It will go up or down from there,” said Luna, who sits on the eight-member board. “I’m confident that we will have some number.”

The governor has already signed two other parts of Luna’s reform package, phasing out tenure for new educators and restricting collective bargaining while introducing a merit pay clause to award bonuses to teachers who raise student achievement, take on leadership roles or accept hard-to-fill positions.

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During the final hours of the 2011 session Thursday, lawmakers approved legislation to speed up the effective date of the reforms with emergency clauses. The move, which makes the new laws go into effect immediately rather than July 1, aims to take the steam out of a voter referendum on the sweeping changes.

Republican supporters say foes of Luna’s reform plan can still get a referendum on the 2012 ballot, but the emergency clause will prevent them from winning a court injunction halting enactment of the changes until after a public vote.

The group behind the referendum campaign has to collect 47,432 signatures from Idaho voters within 60 days after the end of the legislative session.

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