House passes teacher awards bill

A bill authorizing 105 new awards for Idaho teachers barely cleared the House on Friday morning.

Bateman Teaching Award
Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls, speaking on the House Floor on Friday.

Members voted 34-31 to pass the Idaho Legislative Outstanding Teaching Awards bill, carried by Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Linden Bateman, a longtime educator and student teacher supervisor.

The bill calls for each lawmaker to approach leaders of a school district or charter school within their legislative district and ask them to recommend a teacher for the award. Honorees would receive a customized certificate and $500.

Rexburg Republican Rep. Dell Raybould led the opposition, saying it is unfair because some legislative districts include just a single school district, while others include multiple school districts.

Raybould voted no, he said, “So the Legislature, all of us here, are free from being accused of discrimination.”

Bateman said he strived for equality, noting that all legislative districts include the same number of people, regardless of how many school districts fall within them. Bateman said the bill offers lawmakers a chance to become closer with their local schools and to honor teachers who have felt discouraged or criticized.

Bateman also dismissed suggestions that the process would be unfair to those who do not win.

“Should we eliminate giving blue ribbons at fairs?” he asked.