Idaho Core showdown looms at Statehouse

Anyone interested in education should circle Jan. 22 on their calendars and prepare for a not-to-miss hearing at the Statehouse.

The House and Senate education committees have tentatively scheduled a joint session that afternoon devoted to the new Idaho Core Standards in English language arts and math.

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Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle

House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said a panel of experts on both sides of the issue will answer questions and dispel myths surrounding Idaho Core Standards, nationally recognized as Common Core standards.

The new standards are being taught statewide for the first time this year.

“One of the challenges of Common Core is there is a lot of misinformation out there about what Common Core is and what it isn’t,” DeMordaunt said. “(This) is an effort to be as transparent as possible.”

Many education stakeholders and a coalition of backers have supported Idaho Core Standards. Meanwhile, dozens of residents, Madison School District Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas and some lawmakers have voiced their opposition.

The special meeting will look and feel a bit different than a typical legislative hearing. Questions must be submitted in advance, and in writing. Before the hearing, DeMordaunt and Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R- Coeur d’Alene, will pass them along to a panel of experts.

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The public will not be allowed to speak during the hearing. Only members of the committees will be allowed to ask questions, DeMordaunt said.

“They can submit any question or concern they have, they really can,” DeMordaunt said. “If they hear that Common Core is being run by some secret organization and they want to know if that’s true or not, submit that question.”

DeMordaunt — who, like Goedde, is on record supporting Idaho Core Standards — said he is keeping an open mind, and hopes to help lawmakers have a more complete and accurate understanding of the standards.

DeMordaunt hasn’t yet reached out to the education stakeholders who will be a part of the pro and con panels, but he envisions a broad group of citizens and officials.

“I’ve certainly interacted with some folks around our state who have concerns about the standards, and will probably invite them,” he said.

The hearing was announced during Wednesday’s first meeting of the House Education Committee.

Two other joint sessions of the House and Senate committees are also planned.

  • A Jan. 15 session will feature Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Richard Westerberg, who served as chairman of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.
  • A joint public “listening session” will be held, at a date to be determined.

DeMordaunt said he expects his committee to study and scrutinize each of the 20 task force recommendations.

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Karen Echeverria

“This is going to be one of those sessions where we’re going to roll up our sleeves and really start to get to work on some of this stuff,” DeMordaunt said. “We’re going to have some really, really good open, candid discussions about these recommendations and what needs to be done to get meat on the bones.”

Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association, said she is pleased with the House Education Committee agenda.

“I’m really excited about the Common Core panel – I think that will be really good to have people on both sides who are addressing the issues,” she said. “Hopefully we can really flush out some of the concerns that we are hearing out there in the community.”

Echeverria’s organization passed resolutions supporting Idaho Core Standards and the other task force recommendations and she hopes the Legislature will create the statutory framework to implement the recommendations, even if they aren’t yet fully funded.

The third week of January shapes up to be a key week for education at the Statehouse. On Jan. 23, the morning after the Idaho Core Standards hearing, budget writers will conduct a hearing on the K-12 budget.

Get involved

Anyone wishing to submit a question in writing for the Idaho Core panel may email the House Education Committee’s secretary or mail their concerns to House Education Committee, Routing Code 38, State Capitol, Boise, ID, 83720.