House passes bill on hiring rural teachers
Voting almost along party lines, the House passed a bill to give rural school districts greater flexibility in hiring teachers.
Bill 221 would allow schools to issue local teaching certificates to fill their vacancies. To be eligible, a candidate only needs a bachelor’s degree.
With Idaho schools running out of around 600 teachers per year – and with the pandemic likely to put even greater pressure on rural schools and charter schools – HB 221 would provide the necessary hiring latitude, said Representative Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, the sponsor of the bill.
“Our only option, unless we try something like this, is not to have a teacher in the classroom at all,” he said.
Thursday’s debate was a sort of follow-up to Friday’s House Education Committee hearing, with eight of the 15 members speaking.
Committee vice chairman Ryan Kerby, a Republican from New Plymouth and a retired school principal, said many rural districts were struggling to attract teacher candidates. And often, he said, these candidates commute from district to district because they can’t work with people and get results in the classroom.
Democrats argued that HB 221 failed to address the root cause of Idaho’s teacher shortage: low teacher salaries. “It’s about applying a bandage where heart surgery is needed,” said Representative John McCrostie, a teacher from Garden City.
The House passed HB 221 on a 54-13 vote, with Mountain Home Republican Matthew Bundy joining the 12 House Democrats in opposition. The bill now goes to the Senate.
House passes red tape simplification bill
The House moved quickly on Thursday to adopt a bill to streamline school reporting requirements.
Sponsored by Kerby, Bill 222 would eliminate several reporting requirements. Schools would no longer need to develop college and vocational guidance plans or present literacy intervention plans.
The bill would also streamline the state’s teacher appraisal process and create a “state commission for educational excellence” to review school continuous improvement plans required by the state.
The debate was limited, but Representative Vito Barbieri, of R-Dalton Gardens, questioned the need for a new state commission. (The two group meetings per year would cost $ 15,000.)
The House passed HB 222 on a 52-15 vote. He also goes to the Senate.
Clow Introduces Bill to Freeze Funding for Charter Facilities
House Education President Lance Clow of R-Twin Falls introduced a bill to protect charter schools from cuts to funding for their facilities if Idaho cuts spending on education.
Public charter schools, unlike traditional districts, cannot use bonds or levies to raise funds for buildings. In 2013, the State created a Charter School Facilities Fund distributed on a per pupil basis. But the fund has a catch: if the state cuts spending on education, the charter school fund is automatically reduced. The state spends about $ 10 million per year on charter school facilities.
Bill 264 would essentially freeze the current formula for the facilities fund, removing the requirement for this automatic decrease.
Education spending has only increased since 2013, so charters haven’t had to bear a drop, Clow said, but the pandemic could have changed that. This spring, Governor Brad Little called for deductions from all budgets, including the education budget, before reverse course and rrestoration of education funds.
If these deductions had triggered the automatic decrease in the chartered facility fund, schools were in danger of losing nearly $ 2 million, Clow said.
“Over the past year, with governor-ordered detentions… the question has arisen as to how that would have impacted this formula,” Clow said. “This question is what triggered in my mind if we were to change that and freeze the formula where it was, so that they wouldn’t be negatively affected by this action.”
Blake Youde, of the Idaho Charter School Network, spoke in favor of the bill, saying fixed funding would give charters better predictability in their annual budget and help them get better loan funding.
House Education members brought the bill to the ground for a second reading.
Horman refines strong student grant proposal to address homeschool concerns
Representative Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, proposed a new bill making small changes to his proposal for a strong student scholarship program and a strong student scholarship program. The bill would essentially revive a grant program that used federal stimulus funds to help families pay the cost of educational technology or online learning for K-12 students.
Horman’s current proposal, Bill 215, is waiting on the first floor of the house. The new bill would change the language to appease home schooling advocates concerned that applying for the program could impose new restrictions on home schooling.
The rewrite would explicitly state that nothing in the bill “should be interpreted as giving the state the power to regulate the education of non-public students.” It would also remove the wording that the state “audits” the use of these grant funds, but families would still have to report how they spend the money.
Idaho has some of the most lenient home schooling regulations in the country, a point members of House Education repeatedly made on Thursday.
The reaction to the bill itself has been mixed. Many members of the committee said they were strong supporters of free homeschooling and supported this bill as a way to provide funds for homeschooling families without restricting what they could teach. When representatives asked if homeschooling families even wanted money, Horman pointed out that nearly 5,000 homeschool students had asked for Strong families, strong students subsidize funds last fall.
“If you don’t want the funds, don’t apply,” Horman said. “There are several thousand other families who, in order to access the resources they need to educate their families, need help.
John McCrostie, of D-Garden City, said he would vote against the bill because it still contains a controversial $ 5 million for scholarships for non-public school students who previously attended schools public.
The issue of state scholarships for students who do not attend public schools has grown in importance as a result of a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. Last summer, the High Court ruled that a Montana state scholarship program should be made available to students of private schools, including religious schools.
Scholarships, which, according to opponents, are similar to private school vouchers, sparked a long debate during pre-hearing hearings of the House Education Committee.
The rewritten bill now goes to the House floor for a potential vote.
Bill would require disclosure of vaccine exemptions in school communications
House Education also brought forward a proposal from member Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, that would require schools to describe and cite Idaho’s vaccine exemptions whenever they send information to parents about immunizations.
“I think it’s important that parents are already aware of what’s already in the code,” DeMordaunt said. “It respects the right of parents to make choices about the health of their children.
House members voted to send the proposal directly to the House floor for a second reading, despite objections from Representatives Steve Berch, D-Boise and McCrostie, who wanted the bill to go through a full public hearing.
“I don’t think the simplicity of a bill negates our responsibility and for that matter the desire to try to accommodate public comments,” Berch said.
The Senate adopts the budget for technical and vocational education
Going through a long list of bills on Thursday afternoon, the Senate approved a vocational-technical training budget for 2021-22.
At just over $ 73 million in general fund dollars, the budget represents a 7 percent increase. The budget includes the bulk of a $ 4.75 million plan to expand secondary and post-secondary CTE programs and workforce training centers – part of the Brad government’s future infrastructure plan Little Building Idaho.
With the Senate vote 34-0, the budget is heading to the House.
Idaho Education News remotely covered Thursday’s hearings.
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