Idaho school reform foes hire outside consultant
Published: May 2,2012
A political group working to overturn Idaho’s new education reforms has hired an out-of-state consultant who last November helped repeal a hotly debated Ohio law that limited collective bargaining.
David Williams left his home in Bethesda, Md., last month to work on the Idaho campaign aimed at repealing new state laws that restrict teacher bargaining, eliminate tenure, phase in laptops and require online courses.
Williams expects to have bipartisan help in the effort to throw out the Republican-backed measures, the Idaho Statesman reported May 2.
“You’ve got people of all political persuasions who believe that quality public schools are inherent to the quality of life,” Williams said.
The laws championed by public schools chief Tom Luna and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter were approved amid outcry from the teachers union, parents and some students. Critics gathered enough signatures to put three repeal measures on the November ballot.
Williams was hired by Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform, a political committee that gathered the signatures and includes parents and members of the Idaho Education Association. Most of the $390,000 raised by the group has come from the state and national teachers union.
Williams, 61, has been chief of staff to congressmen from Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin. He also worked for public-employee unions in New England and previously spent eight years as a reporter. In Idaho, which is a right-to-work state, Williams said any focus on his union credentials is just a distraction.
Williams recently served as deputy campaign manager for We Are Ohio, a group that won 62 percent of the vote in November to overturn a law that severely limited the bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees.
The defeat was a stinging blow to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and cast doubt on other Republican governors who have sought union-limiting measures as a means to curb spending. But backers of the Idaho laws contend the Ohio defeat won’t prove a harbinger of things to come in the Gem State.
Otter picked lobbyist and veteran campaigner Ken Burgess to help plot his strategy for rallying behind the new education laws.
“We are not Ohio,” Burgess said. “There is no way you can compare the two states. In the end, it’s not going to be as much about unions and union negotiations and union politics as it’s going to be about what’s right for educating Idaho’s kids.”
The political group backing Otter and Luna has yet to formally file with the state but expects to soon, said Burgess, who also sought bipartisan support.
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