Idaho enters home stretch in race to comply with federal education law

With just 2 1/2 months until a major federal deadline, schools chief Sherri Ybarra and state education officials are entering the sprint to the Every Student Succeeds Act finish line.

ESSA is major federal education law, and Idaho faces a Sept. 18 deadline to submit its plan to comply with the law and spend $83 million in annual federal funding.

Since late 2016, Ybarra has missed a series of mostly self-imposed deadlines regarding Idaho’s ESSA plan and been hampered by complaints from education groups and lawmakers who say they haven’t been brought up to speed on the still-unfinished plan.

Here is an ESSA timeline, including Idaho history, upcoming deadlines and how you can have your say (in addition to the State Department of Education’s public comment opportunity, Idaho EdNews is asking readers to share their ESSA thoughts, priorities, concerns and suggestions):

ESSA timeline, past, present and future:

  • December 2015: Former President Obama signs ESSA into law.
  • August 2016: The State Board of Education grants preliminary approval to a new accountability system designed to comply with ESSA.
  • September-October 2016: Accountability Oversight Committee conducts a series of informational hearings across the state regarding the accountability plan.
  • November 2016: Idaho School Boards Association leaders accuse Ybarra and state officials of pushing forward with an accountability plan without their input. During a Nov. 9 public hearing in Caldwell, a group of 50 educators — including Idaho’s 2016 teacher of the year Melyssa Ferro — also complained they have been kept in the dark about the plan.
  • November 2016: Ybarra misses her original self-imposed deadline to submit Idaho’s ESSA compliance plan to the State Board of Education. At the time, Ybarra’s spokesman, Jeff Church, said the missed deadline will not affect their ability to submit the plan to the U.S. Department of Education on March 6, Idaho’s original deadline.
  • February-March 2017: Idaho Legislature approves Idaho school accountability plan.
  • March-April 2017: Ybarra misses her original March 6 deadline to submit the ESSA compliance plan to the U.S. Department of Education. Seventeen other states submit their plans at this time.
  • April 2017: Ybarra and her staff announce they will instead work toward submitting the ESSA plan on Sept. 18.
  • June 12, 2017: Leaders of the Idaho Education Association and Idaho School Boards Association write a letter to Gov. Butch Otter and members of the State Board of Education saying they felt “disrespected” after being excluded from helping design and draft the ESSA compliance plan.
  • June 20, 2017: Ybarra and her staff release the sixth draft of Idaho’s ESSA compliance plan. It is 76-pages long, but still unfinished.
  • June 26-27, 2017: Idaho State Board of Education members and the Legislature’s House and Senate education committees host two, day-long policy briefings on the ESSA plan. Attendees at both meetings say they have been left in the dark.
  • July 17, 2017: State Board of Education members have scheduled an ESSA follow-up meeting for education and community groups to continue to study and provide feedback over the ESSA plan.
  • July 31, 2017: Deadline to submit public comment on the sixth draft of the ESSA compliance plan.
  • Aug. 9-10, 2017: The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet in Pocatello, where members are expected to debate and vote on the ESSA plan.
  • Mid-August 2017: Gov. Butch Otter is expected to receive the ESSA plan that comes out of the State Board of Education and spend about 30 days reviewing it.
  • Sept. 18, 2017: Idaho faces a mandatory deadline to submit the complete ESSA plan to the U.S. Department of Education. The plan is called the Idaho consolidated state plan.
  • 2017-2018 school year: Idaho is expected to comply with ESSA, and schools will be held accountable to the plan.
  • Fall 2017: An independent peer review group comprising of national education experts is expected to critique and review Idaho’s ESSA plan.

Join the conversation

In mid-July, Idaho EdNews will roll out a series of articles taking a closer look at what is in Idaho’s ESSA plan, and how it will affect students, educators and families. Articles will continue leading up to the Aug. 8-9 State Board of Education meeting.

In order to make our stories as relevant and thorough as possible, we would like our readers to tell us how ESSA affects their lives and schools. So we are asking for parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, policy makers and community groups who are willing to be interviewed to email us their contact information to [email protected]. Please introduce yourself, and drop us a line by July 10 letting us know the most convenient way for our journalists to reach you.