Education news roundup: Wednesday, Feb. 26

Employee grievances. Currently, grievances for non-certified employees hinge on the interpretation of one short phrase: “unfair treatment.”

And this has led to some unusual grievances, says Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association — covering everything from to pay to dress code, to the number of cans of green beans a cafeteria worker was expected to open.

House Bill 501 — designed to better define the grievance process — received unanimous approval in the Senate Education Committee and heads to the Senate floor.

ISBA and the Idaho Education Association negotiated the bill’s language, and the result is a “compromise” legislation, said Robin Nettinga, the IEA’s executive director. And the state might need to tighten the language in the future. “We’ll try this for a while,” she said.

HB 501 has already passed the House 59-10. (For a look at the House roll call, go to Idaho Education News’ vote tracker.)

Don Soltman

Don Soltman. Senate Education sent State Board of Education President Don Soltman’s confirmation to the floor, with a unanimous thumbs-up.

Soltman, of Twin Lakes, has served on the State Board since 2009.

Next on the docket: Richard Westerberg’s confirmation. Senate Education held a confirmation hearing Wednesday, and is scheduled to vote Thursday. Westerberg, of Preston, has served on the State Board since 2007, and chaired Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force in 2013.

Salamanders. The Idaho giant salamander took one amphibious step toward statewide recognition.

Ilah Hickman
Ilah Hickman and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking

The debate on Senate Bill 1271, the state amphibian bill, had its light moments. Meridian Republican Marv Hagedorn regaled colleagues with a story about hooking one of the salamanders while on a fishing expedition. Caldwell Republican Jim Rice seemed sold on one of the salamander’s virtues: a taste for eating small rattlesnakes.

But the debate was also punctuated with praise for Ilah Hickman, a seventh-grader at Boise’s Les Bois Junior High School, who has been working on the legislation since fourth grade.

Sens. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, and Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, praised Ilah’s preparedness, persistence and charm. Passing SB 1271 was not just a matter of naming a state amphibian, said Ward-Engelking, the bill’s floor sponsor. “It is about the youth of Idaho being a part of our great government.”

SB 1271 passed 33-2, with Republicans Curt McKenzie of Nampa and Jeff Siddoway of Terreton comprising an anti-salamander caucus of sorts. The bill now goes to the House.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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