On November 6, voters in Idaho will decide if a trio of education laws should be repealed in whole or in part, or if they’ll remain intact. So, what happens if voters reject the laws?
The Students Come First laws do many things. The package of three laws would remain on the books if Propositions 1, 2 and 3 pass on November 6. If any of those propositions fail, the corresponding law would be repealed.
The second law creates a teacher pay-for-performance measure. This means teachers are able to earn bonuses based on measured outcomes of their students. That law will be voted on in Proposition 2.
The third law emphasizes technology and will eventually put a laptop in the hands of every Idaho high school student and teacher in the state. That law will be voted on in Proposition 3.
Each of the education reform laws stands alone. That is, the laws operate independently of one another. If Prop 1 fails and Props 2 and 3 pass, for example, the second and third education laws will continue to function.
What gets tricky is the money that’s involved with each law.
Legislative budget analyst Paul Headlee knows these education laws inside and out. He explains that if all three referenda fail, the $35.7 million that would have been spent to implement the laws in 2013 will end up in what is called the Public Education Stabilization Fund. That’s if the Legislature doesn’t take action. The stabilization fund is a rainy day account for Idaho’s Department of Education.
The department wouldn’t be able to turn around and spend that money on other things, Headlee says. Any spending would require legislative approval.
Headlee says if voters overturn all of the education, lawmakers will have a couple of options: do nothing and let that $35.7 million transfer into the rainy day fund, or appropriate the expected savings for other education programs.
Headlee says the balance of Idaho’s Public Education Stabilization Fund has varied greatly over the last few years, due in large part to the recession. He says it’s currently at $49 million, but it was up to about $114 million before the recession hit Idaho in 2009. Its post-recession low point, says Headlee, was about $10 million.
On the policy side, it’s unclear exactly what will happen to Idaho schools and teachers if these laws are entirely or in-part repealed on Nov. 6. In the immediate future, schools will function as they did before the Students Come First laws passed. Time will tell if the Department of Education will pursue similar reforms if these laws are rejected.