Democrats’ bills have bipartisan support

Idaho Democrats have crafted four bills supporting recommendations from Republican Gov. Butch Otter’s appointed task force on education.

The bills “set the framework,” said Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, but they don’t set a timeline or address funding. That’s a job better left to the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, he said.

“We want what’s best for school children,” Burgoyne said during a Wednesday news conference at the Statehouse.

Luna with Burgoyne
Republican Superintendent Tom Luna joins Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, as Democrats unveil a series of education reform bills.

State Superintendent Tom Luna attended the event in the minority caucus room to show his support for the bipartisan effort.

“This is a very positive day and huge step forward,” said Luna, who has reviewed the four bills. “I expect more people will weigh in, but we now have a path forward.”

Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, a Boise Democrat and task force member, emphasized that the bills need to be approved as a package.

“The task force did not prioritize the recommendations so to focus on one over the others would be a big mistake,” Ward-Engelking said. “We cannot pick and choose.”

She likened a pick-and-choose approach to maintaining a school bus.

“It would be like replacing all the tires except for one,” she said. “We need the entire bus working efficiently and effectively.”

The bills set up a framework for:

“This is a business plan and does not get down in the weeds,” Burgoyne said. “These bill are goals and they give authority for the departments to make the rules. I have no doubt they will work expeditiously.”

The Democrats consulted with Otter and “influential” Republicans, said Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise. The attorney general’s office recommended a slate of four bills, for procedural reasons.

The bills do not address Idaho Core Standards because those standards, implemented in all Idaho schools this year, have already been endorsed by the Legislature, said Burgoyne.

The governor’s task force had 31 members, including lawmakers, administrators, teachers and parents. The 20 recommendations had nearly unanimous endorsement from the members.

“If a group that is as diverse as the education task force can come together and agree, we should honor that by implementing these recommendation,” said Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise.

Click here to read the draft bills on career ladder, accountability, mastery and funding by enrollment.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over one million pageviews in 2019. Jennifer has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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