Education news roundup: Thursday, Feb. 6

The House Education Committee introduced a bill Thursday to pass the cost of background checks and fingerprinting to educators.

Educators already pay for the checks, State Department of Education Deputy Chief of Staff Jason Hancock said. They are required for new public school employees, or for teachers who are moving to a new district and haven’t had a background check in more than five years.

The current fee is $40, but that doesn’t keep up with increased Idaho State Police fees.

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Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home

If the bill passes, the fee would include the full cost charged by state police, plus $10.75 that equals the amount the education department has collected to build up a fund balance.

“(We want to) change the language in such a way we won’t be put in a position again where we can get caught short by fee increases passed along to us,” Hancock said.

Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, and Vice Chairman Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, both questioned the amounts – especially the $10.75 charge. They voted to introduce the bill Thursday, but said they need to see the amounts justified before they could vote to send the bill to the House floor.

Building repair projects

A bill allowing the Salmon School District to go to a Plan B for building repairs is headed to Gov. Butch Otter.

The Senate approved a bill allowing districts and state officials some flexibility in fixing unsafe schools. And the bill could allow Salmon to save about $1 million on building repairs.

Last summer, the state agreed to front Salmon $3.6 million to repair aging roofs at its elementary school and middle school — after local voters rejected eight separate bond issues to bankroll building projects. Local taxpayers will still have to pay the state back for the repairs.

But the district officials want to go with a less expensive plan. They want to fix the elementary school but close the 74-year-old middle school. Students would be shifted to the district’s elementary school and high school.

The legislation, which already passed the House, allows the state and districts to refine state-funded repari projects in midstream.

The Senate passed House Bill 385 on a 31-2 vote.

Labor bills introduced

Without discussion, the Senate Education Committee introduced three bills to keep temporary school labor laws on the books for one more year.

The bills would extend a law requiring school districts to consider factors other than seniority, if they are required to reduce staff; a law limiting the duration of contract clauses; and a law allowing school districts to reduce staff salaries.

The bills would restore sections of the Proposition 1 labor law rejected by voters in November 2012.

All told, Senate Education voted to “print” 11 bills Thursday, all without discussion. The committee is on a deadline, since Monday is the final day it can print bills.

The labor bills would come back to the committee for a full hearing.

Lottery bill introduced

House Education introduced another bill Thursday to extend an Idaho State Lottery program that benefits schools and buildings.

Under existing law, lottery proceeds are divided so that three-eights of the money goes to the permanent building fund, three-eights goes to school facilities and one-fourth goes to the bond levy equalization fund.

That program is set to expire in September. This bill would extend it without interruption.

Check back here later today as more education news develops out of the Statehouse.