Legislature: Local Control Not a Priority

by Judy Ferro

What is our legislature thinking? Are they really going to forbid schools from banning knives?

Last week the Senate actually passed S1092 (25-10) which prohibits any governmental subdivision from enacting any rule “relating to the transportation, possession, carrying…registration or use of a knife…” Moreover, any rule stating otherwise would become null and void.

No rules against “use of a knife”? Does that mean that kids, ages 5 and up, can carve on desks and trees? Can they dissect rodents and birds at the lunch table? And could rules against threats and bodily harm be among those things that are “null and void”? Cutting is, after all, the primary use of a knife. (Last year’s “guns on campus” bill at least limited possession to adults with enhanced carry permits.)

Ironically, the parental rights in education bill (S1096) passed the Senate the same day. It focuses on teaching materials, but parents might try requesting a knife-free classroom. Good luck with recess.

Bills which hundreds of people have worked for, bills that would improve lives and strengthen the economy–bills like Medicaid expansion, minimum wage increase, add the words, preschool education—have died in committee, but one senator wants unrestricted carry of knives so rules of every school district in the state may be thrown out.

Controlling what every governmental subdivision may do indicates that our Republican legislators rank self-interest above “local control.”

There’s more.

H114, which has passed both houses, bans any county from regulating genetically engineered crops and adopting safeguards against contamination of potato and wheat crops. According to the Center for Food Safety, “the bill could even stop efforts to protect bees and other pollinators” by restricting neonicotinoid-coated seeds.

As for labeling genetically modified products, Idaho Republican legislators don’t even want control kept at the state level. House Joint Memorial 006 asks that the government allow only the Federal FDA to regulate “food labeling related to genetic engineering” and that it continue to be done through “the use of truthful and non-misleading voluntary labeling.” Why should campaign donors have to worry about pesky initiatives like Oregon’s recent one?

Last week the Senate passed S1044 to block cities from using eminent domain to acquire land for hiking trails, bike paths, and greenways. Although many such purchases have been done without invoking eminent domain, the possibility of its use has brought parties to the table.

Why, the chair of the House Education Committee thinks we need to go back to a statewide broadband system in spite of the savings that resulted when districts had to find their own broadband source on short notice.

The Committee took the long way round but is finally considering giving local school districts some control over the teacher career ladder.  The bill introduced—and rejected—last week finally gave teachers some say in determining how student progress is measured and used in determining teacher pay. The bill introduced Friday went a step further to allow pay bonuses to teaching teams as well as individuals.

                It’s not a teacher magnet, but it shouldn’t drive teachers away either.  I still wish, however, that the committee had  consider Superintendent of Education Ybarra’s proposal that tiered pay be piloted voluntarily in ten districts before it is required statewide.

                The legislature could learn a lot about local control from Ybarra. She has moved to give school districts more discretion in using funds where they see the need.  As Ybarra said recently, “Decentralization of education is the way we need to go as we support the profession as much as we can.”

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