The House Education Committee still doesn’t have its flow chart. But the band is getting back together next week for a rare, out-of-session meeting.
House Education will meet Oct 29-30 at the Statehouse for an informational ad hoc meeting. During the meeting, officials from the State Department of Education, State Board of Education, Gov. Brad Little’s office and local school districts will talk about the roles and responsibilities of different state agencies, and how state and federal funding sources come together to support education.
Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, approved the meeting. The meeting will be open to the public, but it will be informational only. Legislators will not introduce bills, deliberate on policy decisions or take a position on the proposed recommendations from Little’s K-12 education task force, Clow said.
The public and news media are welcome to attend, but the committee will not accept public comment.
Clow said the idea for the meeting came together to help the committee understand more about how education policy is created and funded. Throughout the 2019 session, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, and other committee members repeatedly asked for a simple flow chart that would illustrate all the sources of education funding and the responsibilities of each agency or department.
Clow said it has proven too difficult to generate a simple one-page flow chart that shows how $2 billion in state funding flows through 115 school districts, about 50 charter schools and pays for a host of programs and initiatives. For example, the annual budget book had 127 pages devoted to just the education budgets in 2018, while the section of last year’s administrative rules bulletin that dealt only with education rules was 107 pages long.
One he realized putting together a flow chart “would be so complicated that it doesn’t answer any of our questions,” Clow reached out to Bedke and state agencies for help.
“Last year nearly half of the committee were new to the committee or the Legislature,” Clow said. “Six of them were freshman. There’s a steep learning curve and this gives us a chance to be a little more prepared.”
Most of the officials who are tentatively scheduled to speak to the committee next week did make presentations throughout the 2019 legislative session. But rather than have the information spread over 90 days with no clear connecting narrative, Clow wanted to organize everything in one spot over the course of two days as a sort of boot camp to prepare for the 2020 session.
Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow, may be in his first term as a legislator, but he’s a veteran when it comes to education policy, having served on the State Board of Education, the Idaho State Charter Commission and the Moscow School Board.
He views next week’s meetings as a learning opportunity and informational exchange for members.
“Based on some of the challenges we had last session, this will give us a little better understanding of the various roles the various parties play and the education funding process,” Goesling said. “We’re all pretty knowledgeable, so it’s an opportunity to share information with the various players and talk about the education funding process.”
The meetings should offer the first look at the House Education Committee ahead of what could be an interesting 2020 session.
Clow sees a few big issues on the horizon. His list includes resolving what he called “unfinished business” when it comes to the debate over whether to rewrite Idaho’s public school funding formula. He also noted Little’s task force recommendations will likely be brought before the education committees at some point and pointed out the Legislature will likely engage in a wholesale review of the administrative rule process, which touches everything from academic standards to graduation requirements and immunization rules.
In 2019, House Education proved to be an unpredictable committee that wasn’t afraid to kill sacred cows. Committee members killed a bill pushed by their chairman, protested a meeting to block Clow from attempting to introduce another bill and, in interviews with Idaho Education News, suggested that their committee would assert itself as the true player when it came to setting education policy.
Next week’s agenda is still being finalized, but the Oct. 29 meeting is tentatively scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., while the Oct. 30 meeting will likely begin at 8 a.m. Both meetings will take place in Room EW-41 in the Statehouse, which is the normal location for House Education Committee meetings.
Potential speakers include State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield, Associate Deputy Superintendent for Finance Tim Hill, STEM Action Center Executive Director Angela Hemingway, retiring Division of Career Technical Education Administrator Dwight Johnson, principal budget and policy analyst Robyn Lockett and a panel of Idaho school superintendents.