By Victor Skinner

BOISE, Idaho – Idaho’s attorney general told the state’s school superintendent that teachers who earned $38.8 million in merit-pay bonuses last year can receive their payments despite voters overturning the merit pay plan and other education reforms Nov. 6.

Idaho Superintendent Tom Luna hopes it won’t be the last time they are paid for their performance.

Luna met with the media this week for the first time since voters repealed his promising “Students Come First” education reforms through three separate ballot proposals last week.

Luna, with the help of the state legislature, took a tough stand against the state’s teachers unions by putting tight restrictions on collective bargaining, phasing out teacher tenure, and linking teacher evaluations and pay to student performance. The state’s teachers union mounted an all-out public relations offensive against the changes and sadly the public shut them down.

Defeated and crestfallen, Luna spoke about his regrets during the first round of reforms and vowed to work with the state’s teachers union in round two, the Spokesman-Review reports.

“I regret that I ever used the phrase ‘union thuggery,’” Luna said, adding that he plans to pursue less complex, less comprehensive reforms moving forward.

The Spokesman-Review reports:

“He offered a couple of examples of pieces of the sweeping laws that he thought all sides might support: funding for high school seniors who have completed graduation requirements to take dual-credit college courses; funding for more math and science teachers; and ‘some sort of pay for performance.’”

Luna told the Associated Press he doesn’t believe the Republican-controlled legislature will sign off on teacher salary increases unless they are linked to student performance. He said he doesn’t believe the election results mean the public wants to return to the old way of paying teachers based on their years in the classroom and college credits accumulated, with no regard to performance.

We certainly hope lawmakers agree, and continue to insist that schools use their public resources as efficiently as possible by requiring them to factor student performance into teacher pay and evaluation decisions.

Voters may have repealed Luna’s reform agenda, and forced him to consider the self-serving interests of the Idaho Education Association, but that doesn’t mean state officials should abandon their duty to ensure that “Students Come First.”

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