Education news roundup: Tuesday, March 18

Lottery proceeds. A complicated attempt to shift state lottery proceeds is headed back to the House.

The Senate passed an amended version of House Bill 478 — which would lock in shares of lottery proceeds for school buildings, state buildings and the state’s bond levy equalization fund. The vote was 29-6; click on our Vote Tracker for the breakdown.

The bill would maintain the current distribution formula for lottery proceeds: 37.5 percent for school building projects, 37.5 percent for the state’s permanent building fund, and 25 percent for the bond equalization fund, designed to support poorer school districts that are pursuing building bond issues.

The formula is a departure; when the state adopted a lottery following a 1986 voter initiative, proceeds were split equally between school projects and building projects. But since 2009, the state has gradually moved some proceeds into the bond equalization fund, and that share now totals 25 percent.

In 2013, when the lottery announced a record dividend, school and building projects each received $18,075,000 in lottery proceeds, with $12,050,000 going to the bond levy equalization fund.

Supporters say HB 478 is essential to maintaining the health of the bond fund. Without it, they said, the state would need to put $12.5 million of general fund money into the fund.

HB 478 would keep the three-way lottery proceed split in place until 2019.

Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise, argued against the bill, and questioned locking the formula in place for another five years.

HB 478 has been subject to some maneuvering in the Senate. Werk sponsored the original bill on the Senate floor last week — a permanent shift to a three-way funding split. But after Sen. Dan Johnson, R-Lewiston, argued against the permanent shift on the Senate floor, and argued for a temporary, five-year change, Werk seemed to recant his support, and the bill was abruptly held up for amendment.

Sen. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, carried the amended bill Tuesday.

But the maneuvering over the bill may not be done.

The amended bill now heads back to the House, which approved the original version of the bill on a 69-0 vote.

WiFi. The House Education Committee passed a bill allowing school districts to receive $21 per student for their own WiFi systems.

John Goedde
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

Senate Bill 1410 was Sen. John Goedde’s response to the FY2015 WiFi spending plan included in the K-12 budget. The budget would allow  districts that are not part of the statewide WiFi system – or wish to opt out of the contract before July 1—to receive $21 per high school student for their own systems.

Goedde’s bill, which passed the House committee unanimously, requires the State Department of Education and the Idaho Education Technology Association to develop more specific requirements for district and charter school WiFi systems.

Committee members asked Goedde a couple questions about his bill and the funding woes that plague the Idaho Education Network broadband network, but nobody opposed the WiFi bill.

The WiFi bill next moves to the House floor. It passed the Senate 34-0 last week.

(More reading: Legislative auditors may get $90,000 to review WiFi, broadband systems.)

SBAC review. House Education enthusiastically passed a bill to allow Idahoans to quash questions from a new Common Core-aligned test.

Goedde said the bill offers “an opportunity to make the Smarter Balanced Assessment (Consortium) an Idaho assessment.”

“There have been concerns we heard, particularly from some parents, I think the term is social engineering,”’ Goedde said. “Some questions may be leading down a road Idaho does not want to go down.”

Senate Bill 1396, creates a 30-member committee to review all “summative computer adaptive test questions” from statewide assessments.

The committee will be able to flag questions “for bias and sensitivity.” The State Board of Education would make the final call.

Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, called the bill “one of the best ideas I’ve heard all year.”

Nobody testified for or against the bill, which heads to the House floor. It cleared the Senate 32-2 last week.