Educators get caught up on legislative session

Despite the longest legislative session in state history still rolling on, the State Department of Education kicked off the 2021 Post Legislative Roadshow on Monday.

The event, held at the Galaxy Event Center in Meridian, gave Treasure Valley superintendents and other school administrators the chance to get caught up on the 2021 Legislative session, which has “tested our patience to the max,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra in her opening remarks.

The Roadshow was held in person for the first time since 2019. The 2020 event was held virtually, as all schools at the time were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Superintendent of Instruction Sherri Ybarra gives her opening remarks during the Post Legislative Roadshow on Monday, May 10, 2021. Nik Streng/Idaho EdNews

“Even though I’ve seen you all on Zoom and Google Meets this past year it hasn’t been the same as it always was,” Ybarra said. “There’s only one way to describe how I feel about you all being here today and that is absolutely thrilled.”

The event drew about 100 educators, including veterans at big districts like West Ada’s Mary Ann Ranells and leaders of smaller charters and districts like New Plymouth’s David Sotutu.

One of the main orders of business was a breakdown of the house and senate education-related bills from the 2021 legislative session.

“We thought the supplemental budgets would be ready in late-January or early-February, and we waited until late-April,” Deputy Superintendent for Communications and Policy Marilyn Whitney said.

The discussion on finance centered on multiple bills, which have not been signed yet by Gov. Brad Little.

“The budget is not signed yet, but we’ve been assured that it will be signed,” Chief Financial Officer of Public Schools Julie Oberle said.

Ybarra opened the session by talking about the shooting that took place at Rigby Middle School on Thursday morning, where a student pulled a gun from her backpack and shot two students and a staff member. Ybarra called the moment when she found out about the incident from one of her staff members the “worst moment of (her) career” and spent Friday meeting with members of the Jefferson County School District.

“That was the day that we all dreaded,” Ybarra said. “A relief that nobody passed away.”

At the end of her opening remarks, Ybarra also announced that she is starting a new students advisory council. Ybarra said the students advisory council will get more student voices to the table as decisions are made on education.

The application period for the student advisory council is open now and runs through June 25.

The Roadshow will continue through May, stopping in Moscow on Thursday, Coeur d’Alene on Friday, Twin Falls on May 19 and Idaho Falls on May 20. Those who would like to attend virtually can do so through Zoom. A recording of Monday’s event is available here. The presentation slides from the many SDE presenters are available here.

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