An Idaho Judge has rejected the state teachers union's lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of one leg of the Students Come First education reform package.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Timothy Hansen upheld today the reform laws backed by public schools chief Tom Luna and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. The lawsuit brought on by the Idaho Education Association is one step the group has taken in an attempt to strike down the reform package passed earlier this year by the Legislature.

"I am pleased the court rejected the union's lawsuit to overturn portions of Students Come First," Luna said in a written release. "Through this legislation, we phased out tenure, eliminated early retirement bonuses, and returned decision-making back to locally elected school boards. We will continue to move forward in implementing the Students Come First reform efforts that have already begun improving public education for all students across Idaho."

IEA leadership claims that Senate Bill 1108 and related trailer bills are harmful to Idaho public school teachers' rights. Among the plaintiffs that joined the IEA in filing the lawsuit in April is the Shoshone Education Association, which represents teachers in the Shoshone School District.

Today, IEA officials pledged to appeal Hansen's decision to the Idaho Supreme Court.

 "All involved anticipated that whether it was a win, lose, or draw, Judge Hansen's decision would be appealed and ultimately decided by the Idaho Supreme Court," IEA attorney Paul Stark said in a written release. "The Idaho Education Association appreciates Judge Hansen's expedited decision that allows the parties to have the issues presented to the Supreme Court as soon as possible. The Idaho Education Association further looks forward to the November 2012 election when Idaho voters will finally have a say in overturning the harmful education laws passed this year."

Stark's comment refers to IEA's successful petition to add a statewide ballot measure asking voters if they want to overturn the Students Come First reforms during the November 2012 general election.

In an Idaho State Department of Education release, Otter said: "The Legislature did the right thing, and now so has Judge Hansen. That's welcome news.

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"But we recognize this issue and the fate of Students Come First will remain in the courts - including the court of public opinion. Superintendent Luna and I are confident that Idaho citizens understand what's at stake.  What's important today is that these necessary and responsible reforms are continuing to move forward."

For more of this story, read Saturday's Times-News.



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