Community Blog: The EDge

Could school furlough plan end up costing Nampa district?

District Judge Molly Huskey opened the door to the Nampa Education Association, saying the teachers’ union could seek damages over an illegal furlough plan.

But it’s too early to say what will happen next.

“I haven’t been asked to take further action,” said Paul Stark, attorney for the Idaho Education Association, which represented the NEA in the furlough lawsuit.

Huskey said former district superintendent Thomas Michaelson had overstepped his bounds in December, when he sought voluntary teacher furloughs. The furlough plan skirted the collective bargaining process, Huskey said Friday, since teachers were asked to agree to furloughs individually.

Neither the NEA nor the IEA sought damages. But Huskey’s ruling said the unions could “seek further relief on behalf of its members.”

About 60 percent of Nampa’s certified staff agreed to at least one furlough day, district spokeswoman Allison Westfall said, resulting in about $371,000 in savings.

The NEA would have to decide whether to seek damages, Stark said. At this point, union officials are still trying to digest Friday’s ruling.

One option for the union is to simply put the episode in the rear view mirror, Stark said, in hopes that the district will take a more collaborative approach to future negotiations.

“We could have solved this in December,” he said, “but they didn’t want to.”

The district is not considering an appeal, Westfall said.

Eight months removed from the furloughs, Stark said Huskey’s ruling still establishes an important precedent. The IEA is “very excited and encouraged” that the ruling upheld the collective bargaining process, he said.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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