Following a dramatic party-line vote to repeal initial standards for teacher certification, Tuesday’s House Education Committee meeting ended in a cliffhanger.
After weeks of divided hearings and anticipation, legislators were expected to finally act on academic standards and rules Tuesday.
House Education quickly and unanimously approved 10 of 12 chapters of omnibus rules — the low-hanging fruit that did not prove controversial during last month’s hearings.
Then, it repealed teaching certification standards.
Immediately after that, Rep. Bill Goesling, R-Moscow, made a surprise motion to adjourn the committee on the spot — with no action on math, science and English language arts standards.
The committee quickly agreed and walked away without further action.
“Obviously we didn’t quite get there,” Vice Chairman Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said afterwards.
House Education will take another run at rules and standards when it reconvenes at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
It’s important to view House Education’s action — and inaction — in context. House Education, alone, can’t repeal standards and rules. The Senate Education Committee would need to agree with the House in order to remove standards and rules from the books.
If the Senate approves the standards and rules, nothing the House does will matter.
Last week, the Senate began pressuring the House to act, saying it was time to move on to introducing new bills and holding other hearings.
In that light, Tuesday’s House Education motion amounted to the first action in the debate.
Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, led the action to repeal teaching standards, or the Idaho Standards for the Initial Certification of Professional School Personnel.
Specifically, Marshall repealed 301 pages of “incorporated by reference” documents containing everything from Idaho core teaching standards and state specific requirements, as well as more specialized standards for career-technical education, standards for math teachers, science teachers, English teachers and more.
Marshall also led the committee in repealing the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) standards as Idaho’s official vehicle to approve educator preparation programs, the non-traditional educator preparation program and continuing approval rules.
Marshall, a longtime former administrator at Brigham Young University-Idaho, said the standards are too hard on colleges and universities attempting to prepare future teachers.
Notably, BYU-Idaho, a private college located in Rexburg, has struggled to meet state requirements in recent years. In December 2018, Idaho Education News reported that some of the university’s elementary teacher candidates must take additional classes after state officials determined some of BYU-Idaho’s endorsement coursework fell short of state requirements.
“The problem here is that the standards have just become so large and so comprehensive,” Marshall said. “ The list is long and it is significant and it is virtually impossible to evaluate each teacher candidate on all of those criteria.”
Rep. Jerald Raymond, R-Menan, said he supported removing the certification standards because of the testimony American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) director Melanie Olmstead gave on Jan. 13. Olmstead has said initial teaching certification standards are “problematic for our organization.”
ABCTE is one of a handful of nontraditional, alternative teacher authorization programs recognized in Idaho.
Democrats pushed back hard against Marshall and made an unsuccessful effort to approve the teacher certification standards in full.
“The scope of that is so all encompassing, (repealing) it really makes me uncomfortable,” said Rep. John McCrostie, D- Garden City.
“If you’re going to throw out one set of standards you better have something to replace it with,” said Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise.
But Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said the committee itself doesn’t have the ability to write new standards on the fly.
“We, as a body, only have the ability to accept or reject,” Clow said. “We can’t lay in there and say, ‘Here is a better set of standards we would like to insert.’ We cannot do that.”
In the end, all 12 of House Education’s Republicans supported repealing the initial certification standards for teachers, while all three Democrats opposed the move.
After the meeting, Tracie Bent, the State Board of Education’s chief planning and policy officer, said it is too early to tell what the longterm effect of repealing the certification standards would be.
“Those are standards all educator preparation programs are measured against and help to inform certification and endorsement requirements,” Bent said.
The State Board is expected to discuss the situation when it meets next week.
If the Senate also removes the certification standards, there could be a gap before the State Board is able to put temporary standards in place, Bent said.
However, Marshall confidently told the committee, “By us removing those standards right now, it won’t change anything.”
That led Berch to question the point of the whole process.
“If getting rid of these rules won’t change anything, then why would we get rid of the rules?” Berch asked.