This week at the State Board: What to watch for

Most of the State Board of Education’s business this week will unfold Thursday morning.

But it’s a full agenda. Here’s what to watch for:

Campus coronavirus policies. First thing Thursday morning, the board will take up face coverings at its four-year schools: Boise State University, the University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Lewis-Clark State College.

Sort of.

The four schools reinstated mask requirements before Monday’s start of fall semester.

The board won’t vote up or down on the face coverings policy Thursday. Instead, the board will hold a first reading on a policy that would allow the board’s executive director to work with the schools on coronavirus protocols. The policy would give the college and university presidents the authority “to implement measures required to prevent the spread of contagious or infectious disease, including limiting programs or activities.”

In other words, the mask requirements will remain in place, at least for the beginning of the semester. College and university officials say they will look at their policies, depending on coronavirus case numbers and community spread.

Meanwhile, the board won’t make a final decision on a pandemic protocol policy before its October meeting.

Legislative priorities. The board will take a second look at eight legislative ideas for 2022 — a laundry list endorsed in June:

  • The big-ticket item is a $42.1 million plan to fund full-day kindergarten. Most school districts already offer full-day kindergarten options, but the state covers only the cost of half-day sessions. That means districts have to find ways to pick up the slack, often by using supplemental property tax levies. An all-day kindergarten bill emerged during the 2021 legislative session, but never got a committee hearing.
  • Another proposal would provide rural teachers with money to repay their student loans, up to $12,000 over four years. The loan repayment program could cost the state close to $11.9 million over five years. Legislative Democrats have pushed similar bills for several years.
  • A third proposal would change the way the state calculates school funding — moving from its arcane attendance-based formula to one based on enrollment. Legislators have talked about this concept for years, and the state allowed schools to use an enrollment-based formula during the pandemic.

The board endorsed these eight legislative concepts at its June meeting, but now the board will look at concrete proposals. Any proposals the board approves this week would go to Gov. Brad Little for his consideration.

The pandemic — and its effect on grades. The shift to online or hybrid learning affected ninth-graders’ GPAs.

Overall, ninth-grade GPAs dropped by .13 points for students in a hybrid model blending online and face-to-face learning. For students in an online-only setting, the dropoff was .09 points. But the decreases were greater for students in several at-risk groups — such as Hispanic students, English language learners, migrant students and economically disadvantaged students.

The board will discuss this report Thursday morning.

Convening at Idaho State University, the board meeting is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Idaho State will deliver its annual report to the board Wednesday afternoon.

Thursday’s session is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.

Check back at Idaho Education News throughout the week for full coverage of the meeting.


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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