How Idaho is cutting its rules — and why Common Core standards survived the purge

Gov. Brad Little says he wanted to spend the past few months scaling back state rules and regulations — while stopping short of sweeping policy changes.

And that’s why one hot-button education rule remained on the books: Idaho’s version of Common Core academic standards.

Gov Brad Little says he hopes to eliminate 55 to 60 percent of Idaho’s rules and regulations by the end of 2019. (Idaho House Republican Caucus photo.)

“I was not going to do any mischief,” Little said Friday morning, during a news conference on the rules review process. “I was not going to change policy for the state of Idaho.”

As the Little administration has launched into an extensive rules review, the Idaho Core Standards have become a flashpoint in the debate. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, has urged Little to view the state’s rules review process as an opportunity to ditch the math and English language arts standards.

The House and Senate education committees adopted the standards by rule in 2011. Since then, lawmakers have made no concerted effort to drop the standards.

And on Friday, Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill supported staying the course.

“Find me a group of standards that will be perfect,” said Hill, R-Rexburg.

Flanked by Republican legislative leaders, Little touted his agencies’ work to streamline state rules and make them more user-friendly.

When the administration started the task in April, Idaho had 736 chapters and 8,200 pages of rules, including 72,000 restrictions. The state has cut 141 chapters of rule, 886 pages of rule and 19,536 restrictions.

“This wasn’t just the low-hanging fruit,” Little told reporters.

The rules review grew from a standoff between the House and the Senate at the end of the 2019 legislative session. The two chambers could not agree on an omnibus bill to adopt agency rules — an annual procedural vote that usually occurs, without incident, before lawmakers adjourn for the year. As a result of this year’s stalemate, all 8,200 pages of administrative rule were thrown into limbo.

Still, it makes sense to review rules — perhaps on a five-year, rotating basis — and take a second look at state laws as well, House Speaker Scott Bedke said.

“Did we get here as a result of a great strategic plan? Arguably not,” said Bedke, R-Oakley. “(But) let’s not wait for the next crisis or the next logjam to do this again.”

House and Senate leaders are negotiating on a plan to review agency rules in 2020, in hopes of finding a framework that heads off another Statehouse standoff.

“It’s a work in progress,” Bedke said, “and I’m optimistic that this turns out well.”

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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