Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, will serve as chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the upcoming legislative session.
As expected, legislative leaders announced Friday that Thayn would succeed Dean Mortimer, the former Senate Education chairman who did not seek re-election.
Thayn served as Mortimer’s vice chairman. It’s common, although not guaranteed, for experienced vice chairmen such as Thayn to receive a promotion when an outgoing chairman steps aside or loses re-election.
A conservative Republican and a school choice advocate, Thayn has served in the Legislature for 14 years. He is beginning his fifth term in the Idaho Senate. He served three terms in the House from 2007 through 2012.
Thayn has been a champion of the advanced opportunities and dual credit programs that allow students to accelerate their education or earn college credits on the state’s dime while still in high school.
He’s also an opponent of Common Core standards and one of the key players in the push to rewrite Idaho’s content standards. This offseason, he served as a co-chairman of an interim committee on academic content standards. On Wednesday the interim committee pushed for standards with a greater emphasis on American experiences and exceptionalism.
Thayn has also pushed for increased parental rights in education and backed scholarships and other programs to make state dollars available to students attending private or religious schools. Proposals to use scholarships or sources of state funding to benefit students attending private schools are likely to be a big issues in the 2021 legislative session following a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
Thayn has openly opposed deferring to experts to write the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, calling it “an elitist approach.”
Senate leadership also announced Sen. Carl Crabtree, R-Grangeville, will serve as Senate Education vice chairman.
Senate Education members for 2021 include Thayn; Crabtree; Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian; Jim Woodward, R-Sagle; Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls; Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston; Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls; Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise; and David Nelson, D-Moscow.
Horman loses key JFAC spot
In the House, Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, lost her spot as a vice chairwoman on the powerful Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, after making an unsuccessful attempt this week to challenge House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley.
Although she lost her spot as vice chair, Horman will continue to serve on JFAC in 2021.
Horman is a former school board member and for years has played a large role in setting and carrying the K-12 public school budgets.
Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, was promoted to the JFAC vice chair position.
There were no changes at the top in the House Education Committee. Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, will remain as chairman, with Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, serving as vice chairman.
House Education members for 2021 include Clow; Kerby; Judy Boyle, R-Midvale; Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene; Gayann DeMordaunt; Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley; Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls; Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls; Tony Wisniewski, R-Post Falls; Codi Galloway, R-Boise; Charlie Shepherd, R-Riggins; Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell; John McCrostie, D-Garden City; Steve Berch, D-Boise; and Sally Toone, D-Gooding.
The 2021 legislative session kicks of Jan. 11 with Gov. Brad Little’s State of the State address and budget request.