A lot of legislation focused on parents this session

My wife and I learned quickly that we weren’t cut out for homeschooling after our daughters’ school shut down for a couple weeks during COVID.

We tried. It was just too much, and I’m a former teacher.

And it wasn’t the only curve ball hurled our way mid-pandemic. Our district also shifted to a four-day school week, sparking needed adjustments to an already whirlwind school year.

I can’t blame the district. Trustees took feedback, let the public know about meetings, held them openly and then voted openly to make the change.

We knew it was coming, we just didn’t get around to having our say.

I’m not complaining. Our four-day shakeup took adjusting, but many parents around the state had it much worse than we did — in so many more ways — during the pandemic.

And we’ve learned a four-day school week has perks. Our day jobs both tend to slow down on Fridays, which has given us a nice jump on weekend activities and downtime.

Still, COVID and a four-day school week underscored a reality for my family: Our education game has a lot to do with how much we’re willing and able to stay connected, and how much opportunity we have to make that happen.

Turns out, making way for more parental involvement was a big emphasis this legislative session, though school funding and teacher pay have dominated discussion in recent weeks.

And that’s for good reason. The Legislature OK’d an 11% increase to K-12 funding, teacher raises in the 10% range and $1,000 bonuses for all public school employees — and even more for teachers in rural and high-poverty districts.

One big change for parents came in the form of parent “advisory committees,” which school boards are now required to listen to before making curriculum changes.

Half of the committees must be comprised of — you guessed it — parents, so there’s plenty of opportunity to sign up if your district is mulling changes.

Other legislation was aimed at transparency for parents and patrons. Now, school boards have to spell out how they plan to carve up supplemental levies — and include their plans on the ballot.

So if you’re like us and can’t hit every board meeting or stay up with all the developments, you can at least get an idea of where supplemental funds are supposed to go when you go vote.

Other changes aimed at empowering parents came with hefty price tags. Lawmakers earmarked $50 million to help qualifying parents cover learning materials, physical and occupational therapy, internet and laptops. Families making less than $60,000 will get first dibs at the money — up to $1,000 per student, $3,000 per household.

And the list goes on:

  • School lunch: the state will put a whopping $148 million in federal dollars into this program for the next two school years. The money is aimed at continuing universal, free meals that took hold during the pandemic.
  • Dyslexia legislation: A new program will offer screening programs for elementary students with this disorder. The program will also include a dyslexia handbook and training for teachers.

See a change that hits home for you or that you’re eager to take part in? Or is there something lawmakers missed this session? Tell me about it at [email protected]

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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