This could be an influential year for creating and developing K-12 policy and practice in Idaho.
The 2014 Legislature is likely to debate a handful of education topics, including standards for learning, testing and teacher pay. Lawmakers also must fund education — and possibly boost a budget that accounts for nearly half of all tax collections.
This also is an important election year. Every legislative seat and all seven statewide elected offices are on the ballot in 2014.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more or get involved in K-12, now is the time. And the Statehouse is a wonderfully welcoming place for citizen participation. So don’t be shy. Here is how you can learn more or get involved:
It starts with you
Find your lawmakers — click here for help — and investigate what they think about education issues. Email them your ideas. Figure out if you support your legislators, support their opponents or if you should join the race yourself.
Keep track of K-12 education news at IdahoEdNews.org. We attend all the education-related meetings and cover all K-12 issues. Our website and our weekly e-newsletter are free.
You can follow stories and get news alerts on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.
First things first
It all begins with Gov. Butch Otter’s State of the State address on Monday. He will lay down the blueprint for the 2014 Legislature and set in motion the conversation about the education budget. Schools superintendent Tom Luna has already asked for a 5.4 percent increase in funding. The governor and lawmakers are the ones with deciding votes.
The daily double
Education issues are debated and introduced in two committees.
The House Education Committee meets most every morning in the east wing of the Statehouse. Chairman Rep. Reed DeMordaunt welcomes public comment (there is a signup sheet at the door). Agendas are published the day before. Every meeting is open to the public and you are welcome (and encouraged) to contact lawmakers about what they said — or didn’t say — during debates and discussions.
The Senate Education Committee meets every afternoon in the west wing and these meetings also are open to the public with opportunities for comment.
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee meets every morning. These meetings also are open to the public. These 20 lawmakers decide how to spend the state’s money. They must balance the interests between education and other agencies, including corrections and health and welfare.
Even before 105 legislative seats and seven statewide offices are up for grabs, the election year will begin in many school districts on March 11. Some districts are already looking at bond issues or levy elections; these property tax issues have a great affect on schools and kids but also on homeowners. Know what you’re voting for and what it costs.
The superintendent’s race
Tom Luna, Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction, was elected to the position in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. He has indicated he will seek a third term, but he has not formally entered the race. In fact, no one has. Watch to see who steps forward in the coming weeks and appreciate that this election could have the greatest single impact on the future of Idaho’s school children.
A resolution for 2014
Looking for a new year’s resolution? It’s easy to get involved at Idaho’s Statehouse and there are places you can go for help, including visiting our website or giving us a call.