A series of scheduling changes affecting hearings on academic standards is making it difficult for out-of-town residents to share their opinions with legislators, some teachers and education groups are saying.
In the last week, the House Education Committee has twice rescheduled its hearing over K-12 science standards.
First, it was set for last Thursday.
Then, it was rescheduled to today, Jan. 20.
After that, it was rescheduled to Wednesday.
The most recent change — announced Friday morning — has been the most frustrating to some because Martin Luther King Day is a holiday and about 80 educators were already traveling to Boise to meet with their local legislators and the Idaho Education Association.
“I don’t get down here often, and I’m a little bit of a science nerd, so I was thrilled when science standards were on the docket today and then greatly disappointed when they were not,” Post Falls fourth grade teacher Stephanie Brodwater said.
Camille Flournoy, who teaches middle school earth and life sciences in Twin Falls, made plans early to take advantage of the holiday and travel to Boise to meet with legislators and testify. She didn’t find out until she arrived in town Sunday evening that the science standards hearing was postponed until Wednesday.
Flournoy was one of 60 people who attended Monday mornings House Education Committee meeting. She hoped to tell the committee that she believes science standards set important expectations for educators. But the committee did not accept public comment Monday morning.
“Standards are important to be able to have a basis or guidance for keeping teachers accountable,” Flournoy told Idaho Education News. “They are important to be able to set expectations as a profession.”
Teachers aren’t the only ones affected. Idaho School Board Association Executive Director Karen Echeverria said several school trustees could have been at the Statehouse on Monday to testify. Now, she’s worried she might be the only person testifying on behalf of school boards on Wednesday.
“We know the committee members were asking for testimony from folks outside the Boise valley,” Echeverria said. “Because today is a holiday, it’s a prime day for our members to travel and testify.”
Sonia Galaviz, who teaches at Boise’s Garfield Elementary, was another teacher making the rounds at the Statehouse Monday. She met 20 of her fifth grade students at the Martin Luther King Day rally, and then followed up with Reps. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, and Steve Berch, D-Boise, both of whom pledged last week to visit her classroom.
Galaviz was looking forward to testifying over science standards as well. But Galaviz made the most of the scheduling change, pointing out she’s one of the lucky ones because she didn’t have to make a big drive.
She hopes to return Wednesday, but really hopes some of the legislators will visit her class to see the standards in action before they vote on them.
“Any time we can work together and have a conversation around education and what it looks like in the actual context and setting of a classroom, that’s a healthy conversation to have and I look forward to their visits,” Galaviz said.
Throughout the last week, a debate over public input has simmered around the House Education Committee.
In past years, the Legislature has experimented with remote public testimony at different sites throughout Idaho. But legislators announced early they would not use the technology for the hearings over academic standards.
Over the last several days, Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, has said her constituents from the rural central mountains of Idaho don’t have as much of a chance to have their voices heard. To that end, Moon has testified twice already during standards hearings, referenced her constituents emails and printed out more than 50 emails from Idahoans, all but one of which oppose Common Core.
At any rate, many of the educators who traveled to the Statehouse Monday won’t be around when Wednesday’s science standards hearing is gaveled to order.
“It’s going to be difficult with two days’ notice to have somebody come in, cover my daily obligations and make another trip,” Flournoy said.
“I have to go home tonight,” Brodwater said. “I have got to get back to my classroom. My kids need me.”