ISBA 2019: School safety, charter changes are on the agenda

Hundreds of school board members, administrators and state officials will converge on Coeur d’Alene this week to grapple with some of the biggest challenges facing Idaho schools.

After two days of workshops on Wednesday and Thursday, members of the Idaho School Boards Association annual convention meet on Friday to vote on which policy points ISBA should lobby for at the 2020 legislative session.

Heavy on the agenda this year are school safety, proposed changes to the K-12 funding system, and proposals that would change the landscape for public charter schools.

A focus on school safety

While school safety is not new to the ISBA agenda, this year’s conference includes a full school-safety track for administrators.

Quinn Perry, policy director for the ISBA, said safety issues — from social-emotional learning to building safety and emergency response — have been popular topics among the membership.

“Part of it is, trustees are nervous. Board members are nervous,” Perry said. “… I think everyone is just on alert and is just wanting to feel prepared and that everyone is safe when they come to school every day.”

Brian Armes, director of the Idaho Office of School Safety and Security, likes to refer board members to an Idaho statute that puts trustees on the hook “to maintain a safe environment for students.” While most people think of police when it comes to public safety, Armes said, school boards are responsible for planning ahead.

“The boards will begin to look at their policies, practices and protocol and see what they may need to change internally, knowing they have ownership over that realm,” Armes said.

School security is also on the agenda Friday, when ISBA members vote on the group’s lobbying priorities.

One resolution, proposed by the Coeur d’Alene School District, aims to ensure that ISBA will advocate for local-control when it comes to deciding if anyone on a school campus can have a gun.

If the resolution passes, ISBA will “actively oppose legislation requiring Idaho public schools to allow any person to have a gun on campus without the approval of the locally elected school board.”

And tension in the charter sector

Two of the 15 resolutions that ISBA members will consider this year revolve around charters.

One, sponsored by the Caldwell and Payette school districts, suggests amending Idaho code to allow only one charter school per 25,000 people in the legal boundaries of a school district.

Both districts have to contend with new charter schools opening nearby this school year.

Another resolution, sponsored by two online charter schools, would limit the scope of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, an appointed group which regulates the majority of Idaho’s charter schools.

The resolution would recommend that the commission revise its accountability standards.  If the commission doesn’t change its standards, the resolution proposes disbanding the charter commission all together.

The ISBA executive board has recommended a “Do-Not-Pass” for both charter resolutions.

Terry Ryan, CEO of charter-incubator BLUUM, said the charter school community is facing pressures “both from the traditional district side, as well as from the disgruntled charter schools within the charter school movement itself.”

Ryan called both of the pending ISBA resolutions “goofy.”

“Both of those recommendations… don’t make any sense. I don’t think they’re getting at issues that are really pressing,” he said.

Check back with Idaho Education News on Friday to see which resolutions made the cut and which fell short.

Click here for a full list of proposed ISBA resolutions.

Idaho Education News and Bluum are both funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. 

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