In other K-12 news, sex ed and ‘education freedom’ bills surface

While many education leaders spent Thursday morning listening to state superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s budget pitch, other news broke on the K-12 beat.

Two bills emerged Thursday morning. (And yes, they are separate bills.)

Rep. Julie VanOrden

Sex education. Idaho’s sex education law hasn’t been updated since 1970, and House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden wants to change that.

She introduced a one-page bill that would redefine sex education. The bill keeps the 1970 definition of sex education as the study of “the anatomy and physiology of human reproduction,” and adds an update referring to “the development of healthy relationships.”

VanOrden, R-Pingree, said the bill is an attempt to align sex education law with health education standards that were last updated in 2014.

Several elements of the 1970 law would remain intact. Parents would still be able to opt out of sending their children to a sex education class. School districts would still be expected to work with families and community groups on curriculum.

“This does reflect keeping communities involved and setting local curriculum for this part of health education,” VanOrden said in an interview Wednesday.

The bill is expected to return to House Education for a full hearing. VanOrden is considering allowing remote testimony on this bill, under a pilot program that will allow Idahoans to speak on legislation without traveling to Boise.

(The current sex education law begins in section 33-1608 of Idaho code, and runs through section 33-1611. Here’s a snippet from that 1970 law, language deleted in VanOrden’s bill: “The (sex education) program should focus upon helping youth acquire a background of ideals and standards and attitudes which will be of value to him now and later when he chooses a mate and establishes his own family.”)

‘Education Freedom Act.’ Rep. Ron Nate wants Idaho to wean itself off of federal education funding, gradually.

Rep. Ron Nate

The Rexburg Republican introduced a one-page bill that would phase out federal K-12 funding by 2026-27, allowing Idaho to “retain its education freedom.”

The bill would have no immediate effect, even if it were to pass this session. Idaho would take no more than $300 million in federal K-12 funding in 2018-19. Idaho now receives $264 million a year in federal K-12 funding.

But in 2019-20, Idaho would accept no more than $260 million from Uncle Sam — and the state would keep cutting back, by $40 million a year.

The prospects for Nate’s bill are uncertain at best.

He introduced it as a “personal bill,” rather than taking the bill to a legislative committee for introduction. Lawmakers can introduce as many personal bills as they want, but none are guaranteed a hearing. As a rule, personal bills seldom pass, and are often symbolic in nature.

Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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