House Ed introduces five new bills

Working quickly Monday, the House Education Committee introduced five new bills – and fast-tracked two to skip full hearings.

All of the bills received bipartisan, unanimous support, and none of the education stakeholders in attendance signaled any opposition.

The two fast-tracked bills were offered by Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff for the Idaho State Department of Education.

One is a change of a code reference to online courses, necessitated by the repeal of the Students Come First laws.

The second allows school districts to have flexibility with two-thirds of the money from the state’s school facilities maintenance match program. Hancock described the bill as a one-year policy move that needs to be reauthorized annually. He said the two-thirds portion would first be reduced by the amount of money needed to cover a district’s plant facilities levy or safety issues brought up in an official inspection.

Additionally, the flexibility to use two-thirds of that money for discretionary spending is decreasing this year; districts once had flexibility for the entire amount.

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Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle

Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, suggested fast-tracking the bills, since legislative leaders are hoping to adjourn the session this month.

Committee members sent the bills to the House’s second reading calendar, skipping the normal committee hearing process.

House Education approved three other bills that are likely to come back for hearings:

University governance. Committee members introduced a rewritten version of House Bill  282, giving the State Board of Education “exclusive authority and responsibility” for expenditures, human resources, land use, insurance coverage and purchasing for Idaho universities.

Boise State University representative and former House Speaker Bruce Newcomb said the bill would clarify the University of Idaho, Idaho State University, Boise State University and Lewis-Clark State College are under the authority of the state board.

“The purpose of this bill is to put us all (on) the same status, level the playing field for all of the university system so (every institution) has the same rights and same status under the state board,” Newcomb said.

The tweaked bill would not become law until 2014. It also contains a “sunset clause” that will make it expire on June 30, 2016.

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Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise

Escrow accounts. Rep. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, introduced a bill designed to pair with House Bill 259. Ward-Engelking’s bill puts a teacher’s pay into an escrow account when a teacher is placed on unpaid leave due to a court order. If the teacher is found not guilty or charges are dropped, the money in that escrow account would go back to the teacher once a substitute has been paid.

“In this country we have a presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Ward-Engelking said.

Teacher evaluations. Deputy Superintendent of Education Nick Smith pushed a bill relating to teacher evaluations and Idaho’s waiver for federal No Child Left Behind laws. The bill would require every teacher receive an annual evaluation, including two observations.

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