Statehouse roundup, 1.9.20: Common Core hearings begin Tuesday at the Statehouse

Wasting no time, the House Education Committee will start holding rules hearings on academic standards next week at the Statehouse.

Amid simmering debate over what some legislators refer to as Common Core standards, committee members will review Idaho Content Standards in English language arts, math and science.

Within the rules review and reauthorization process, legislators will have the opportunity to approve all of the standards, reject all of the standards or reject a portion of any of the standards. Both the House and Senate would need to agree to remove the standards from the books.

If, for example, the House repealed English standards but the Senate did not, the English standards would remain in effect. If both the House and Senate repealed all English standards, then Idaho would no longer have any academic standards in English.

Committee Vice Chairman Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth announced the schedule for reviewing the standards at the end of Thursday’s meeting:

  • Tuesday: English language arts standards.
  • Wednesday: math standards.
  • Thursday: science standards.

Legislators will accept public comment during the hearings, but those testifying will need to travel to the Statehouse to do so. Kerby said legislators looked into utilizing remote testimony for the hearings, but were told it is not available next week.

House Education Committee meetings traditionally begin at 9 a.m. in Room EW 41 in the basement of the Statehouse. However, agendas for next Tuesday-Thursday have yet to be posted.

Legislators have the authority to review all administrative rules this year because the 2019 Legislature did not take the traditional housekeeping step of reauthorizing all agency rules. The Legislature adjourned for the year in 2019 prepared to let all administrative rules expire. In response, Gov. Brad Little trimmed thousands of pages of rules over the summer before reauthorizing the rest, which sends them back to the Legislature for review and reauthorization.

This reauthorization process may be unprecedented in Idaho, leaving Kerby to say he has “no idea how long it will take.”

It’s unclear how the process will play out, but some legislators and leaders of the Idaho Freedom Foundation hope to repeal the standards.

“For conversation sake, what would be the procedure if we wanted to remove Common Core in its entirety?” Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, asked administrative rules coordinator Dennis Stevenson on Tuesday.

The Idaho Legislature adopted Common Core standards in math and English in 2011 via administrative rule. Several of the standards have since been reviewed, revised and rebranded Idaho Content Standards.

After three years of debate, the 2018 Legislature adopted science standards, also via administrative rule.

It wasn’t immediately clear if legislators will vote on the standards on the day of each hearing. Earlier this week, Kerby said he wanted committee members making motions on the rules within 2 ½ weeks, although he was unsure if that timeframe was too ambitious.

The rules review process is likely to play a factor in driving the length of the session. House Education Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said he has been instructed not to let his committee introduce and debate new bills until the rules process is well in hand.

Enrollment reporting

In other Statehouse action, House Education tied itself into knots debating a new enrollment reporting rule that has already run into problems.

The issue is important, because it has to do with the debate over whether to change Idaho’s public school funding formula.

The rule stems from House Bill 293, which the Legislature passed last year after failing to change the funding formula. The idea was last year’s bill would create a new enrollment reporting rule that could give policymakers more of an idea of how changing from a attendance-based funding formula calculation to an enrollment-based calculation.

The problems are several.

Legislators asked the state to create an enrollment reporting rule “based on the courses a student is enrolled in at the time of the official count.”

But courses and bell schedules and calendars are all different across the state’s 115 school districts and roughly 50 charter schools.

Some hold classes five days a week, others on four days.

Some run semester schedules with six courses a semester. Others run trimesters with four courses per term.

Some have block schedules, others do not.

About 2,700 students take classes from more than one district or charter. Some might attend the bulk of courses at a charter school, home school or virtual school, but attend a traditional district for a couple of classes, like choir or a foreign language or advanced course.

In other words, a course in Vallivue might not be the same as a course in Soda Springs, even if the names of the courses are the same.

So, after consulting with policymakers and officials in Washington and other states, State Board of Education officials developed a temporary rule based on enrollment and minutes of instruction time, not courses.

Several legislators pushed back against that.

Legislators also delved into full-time enrollment (FTE) equivalencies and fractional enrollment.

“This is going to be nightmarish,” Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, said. “I’m quite convinced it will be nightmarish.”

Tim Hill, the associate deputy superintendent for public school finance, assured lawmakers that the existing attendance-based calculations are already extremely complicated. He said a change to enrollment, using minutes of instruction time to determine a full-time student, could actually be simpler, more transparent and easier to track.

“(It is) fairly complex looking, but a fairly simple application,” Hill said.

State Board officials said they want the new enrollment rule to expire when this year’s legislative session ends so that they can take feedback they gather from school officials and legislators this year and develop a better rule to bring back next year.

Nevertheless, House Education members devoted two days to the rule, and signaled they likely aren’t through with the enrollment vs attendance and courses vs. minutes debates.

“This is big deal,” Kerby said. “We just showed up a few days ago and it’s going to be a big deal when we change the funding formula.”


Clark Corbin

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