Parental rights bill heads to House floor

Do parents have an obligation to be involved in their kids’ education?

The House Education Committee debated that wording at length Tuesday morning — before passing a parental rights bill on a voice vote.

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Rep. Janet Trujillo, R-Idaho Falls

House Bill 567 says parents and guardians have “a right, responsibility and obligation” to participate in the education of their children. The bill’s sponsor, Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Janet Trujillo, said the one-page bill was designed only to reaffirm parents’ rights — and to strengthen the partnership between parents and educators.

Several witnesses, and two legislators, offered anecdotes that they said illustrated the need for the bill.

Boise parent Stephanie Zimmerman said a district superintendent had refused to allow her to sit in on a class her child would be attending the following fall. Blackfoot mother Emilee Murdoch said she wanted to pull her children from taking the Smarted Balanced Assessment Consortium exams this spring — but was told she couldn’t. Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said she battled for two years to get her kids’ scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and had to threaten to enlist the county sheriff in her cause.

No committee member disputed the importance of parental rights. Nor did Idaho School Boards Association executive director Karen Echeverria, who questioned the need for the bill.

But committee debate focused on the word “obligation.” Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said the language could be used in a custody battle or child welfare case. And Clow was armed with an attorney general’s opinion that said the wording could create legal uncertainty.

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Committee members rejected this argument — and Clow’s bid to amend the wording. “It’s just a moot point, basically,” said Rep. Linden Bateman, R-Idaho Falls.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna told Idaho Education News that he supports the concept of the bill. His assessment is that it basically writes into law rights that parents already possess, but does not give parents the right to opt children out of state assessments.

“I don’t see it that way,” Luna said.

On Tuesday, Trujillo said her bill had nothing to do with the Idaho Core Standards or the controversial SBAC pilot test, but was designed simply to “emphasize” the important role parents play in the education system.

HB 567 now heads to the House floor, for a possible vote later this week.

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