Boise school teachers won’t be able to get paid time off to attend a state hearing Friday on schools spending using a special leave despite a request from the Boise Education Association (BEA).

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), which writes the state budget, will listen to public testimony from individuals on the schools budget during its Friday meeting.  Speakers are limited to three minutes of testimony.  The hearing will likely revolve around an education reform plan backed by state schools superintendent Tom Luna that has come under fire from the Idaho Education Association (IEA).

The BEA sent an e-mail to some of its members on Jan. 13 urging them to attend the meeting.  “It is so important that we have a presence in that room, we ask that you see if there is any way that you might be able to get a ½ day sub, charge it to Association Leave, and join your fellow educators from around the state to attend this hearing,” wrote Kathy Yamamoto with the BEA.

Association leave is one of the benefits for teachers in the contract between teachers and the Boise School District.  It allows teachers to have paid time off to attend the IEA’s Delegate Assembly, other conferences or other business pertinent to the association’s affairs.

Yamamoto said the district denied teachers’ request to attend the meeting at the Capitol.  Teachers must notify the district 10 days before they plan to use association leave, which Yamamoto said Boise teachers didn’t do.  “I guess they had the right to deny that,” Yamamoto said.  “We’re not going to contest that.”

Yamamoto said teachers could still use their personal leave to attend the JFAC meeting.  “It’s up to teachers if they want to,” she said.  Yamamoto also said that the BEA has received plenty of phone calls from parents and retired teachers who are interested in speaking at the meeting.

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, the co-chair of JFAC, said he expects to hear from teachers and other members of the public about their concerns for education funding and hopes to hear creative ideas.

Luna said he expects a robust hearing with both supporters and detractors of the plan.  “I know that there’s an effort to organize opposition and that’s not surprising,” Luna said.  “But I fully expect that you’ll see superintendents, school board members, parents and others that will testify that these are the kinds of changes that we need to do.”

JFAC budget analyst Cathy Holland-Smith offered advice for anyone wishing to testify at the meeting Friday.  She recommended that people arrive early, since testimony will largely be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis, write down their message, be polite, and be specific about which programs should be preserved and which would be the least harmful to cut.

Photo courtesy of David Frazier.

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