Education news roundup: Thursday, Feb. 13

Private school credits. Rep. John Vander Woude is back with a proposal to provide $10 million in tax credits for private school scholarships.

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Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa

The House Revenue and Taxation Committee printed the Nampa Republican’s bill Thursday morning. (For details on the print hearing, here’s a blog post from the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell.)

Vander Woude and Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, pushed a similar bill in 2013 — providing a dollar-for-dollar income tax credit to individuals or companies that contribute to private school scholarship programs. That bill narrowly passed the House but was scuttled in a Senate committee.

Proponents say the tax credits would bolster scholarship funds, allowing more children to attend private school. Critics question supporters’ claims that the bill, and an enrollment shift to private schools, would result in cost savings for public schools.

Physical education. The Senate Education Committee took a few more laps around a rule to expand P.E. in Idaho schools. But senators wound up right where they started.

The committee took no vote Thursday on a lengthy rule that contains a long list of academic requirements, including the P.E. language.

The debate boils down to several P.E. requirements: a 60-minute-per-week requirement for grade schools; language requiring 200 minutes of P.E. every two weeks in middle school, and language that would require districts to give high school students one credit if they compete in varsity or club sports.

Senate Education is hung up on the high school requirement. But the House Education Committee has already approved it — and since rules go into effect with the blessing of one legislative committee, the Senate’s vote on the high school requirement is a moot point.

But if the Senate follows suit and rejects the elementary and middle school requirements, they will be dead for the session.

Senate Education will take up the issue again Tuesday.

WiFi update. State Superintendent Tom Luna gave Senate Education an update on the WiFi installation project — with one change from his report to House Education a week earlier.

Now, he says, wireless has been installed in 125 high schools and junior high schools, and WiFi is online in 112 schools. Luna again expressed confidence that the state and its contractor, Education Networks of America, will complete the installation at 175 schools by the March 15 deadline.

Professional-technical education. Will a group of legislators spend the 2014 off-season examining the state’s professional-technical education system?

The Senate Education Committee gave its initial blessing to a proposal to create a legislative “interim committee” to study professional-technical education.

Professional-technical education is past due for a study, since it’s integral to getting 60 percent of Idahoans to pursue postsecondary education, said Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls.

Senate Education is pushing for two interim committees, with a price tag of $10,000 apiece. A second committee would examine the rising costs of health insurance for school districts.

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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