Math, science teacher hires spark a debate

Like so many education issues this session, Senate Bill 1092 is conjoined with the Students Come First repeal.

The Senate Education Committee on Monday approved state superintendent Tom Luna’s bill to fold $4.85 million into hiring math and science teachers. But not before senators debated whether they were getting out ahead of a task force that will spend the next year studying education reform.

The drive to add math and science teachers isn’t new. Supporters say the idea has its origins in 2007, when the state decided to increase its math and science graduation requirements, starting with the graduating class of 2013.

Yet the language to hire additional math and science teachers was inserted into Students Come First in 2011 — a matter of “happenstance,” said Jason Hancock of Luna’s State Department of Education.

Regardless of the circumstances, the state is scrambling to keep math and science hiring on track. House Bill 65, the 2013 funding fix that redistributes some $30 million in Students Come First funding, earmarks $4.85 million for math and science hires. But that money only covers the current budget year, ending June 30. Senate Bill 1092 would make this a permanent budget line item.

That drew some resistance Monday.

“(Let’s) slow down as a state and listen to the public,” Idaho Education Association Executive Director Robin Nettinga told the committee.

Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise

Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, suggested amending SB 1092 to make it a one-year funding item, to give Gov. Butch Otter’s task force the latitude to look at the issue.

“I don’t see that that’s an approach that would make any sense to us,” said Hancock, who presented the bill on behalf of his boss. “The underlying graduation requirement is still in place, and there’s no sunset on that.”

Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, a Coeur d’Alene Republican and a task force member himself, also wasn’t sold on the one-year plan, which failed on a voice vote. The committee instead sent the bill to the Senate with a “do-pass” recommendation.

Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

In other Senate Education business Monday:

  • Senate Bill 1093, a school busing budget fix, is headed to the Senate floor with the committee’s blessing. Sponsored by Goedde, this bill would keep in place two-year-old changes in the way the state pays for busing, potentially freeing up $7.5 million for school discretionary spending.
  • Senate Bill 1097 is heading to the Senate floor for amendments. This would hold group homes responsible for the cost of education children brought in from other states.
  • The committee endorsed three nominees for the state’s Public Charter School Commission: Gayle L. O’Donahue, Wanda Chillingworth Quinn and Brian Scigliano. The full Senate will vote on the nominations.
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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