School boards work on 2014 wish list

School trustees across the state are working on their wish list for the 2014 legislative session.

And at this point, the list appears likely to include a pitch for more money — to reverse budget cuts from the Great Recession, and to implement Idaho’s version of Common Core standards.

Other ideas — such as a proposal to allow school employees to train alongside new police officers — appear to face an uphill climb.

The Idaho School Boards Association is considering 10 proposals to present to the 2014 Legislature. The wide-ranging list isn’t yet final. ISBA members will vote the resolutions up or down in November, at the group’s annual convention in Coeur d’Alene. Districts’ votes will be weighed based on enrollment — so the Meridian district will carry more clout than, say, the Midvale district.

School trustees submitted the 10 resolutions earlier this year, and ISBA’s executive board has endorsed seven of them. That doesn’t mean the other three resolutions are dead; the districts will still have a chance to argue for them during the convention.

Here are the seven ideas that have the ISBA executive board’s blessing:

  • Operational funding. The Meridian and Idaho Falls districts are leading the push to restore schools’ so-called “discretionary funding” to pre-recession levels. Since 2009, operational budgets have been cut by $82.5 million; schools say the funding helps pay for benefits, utilities and transportation, among other items. Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force also supports restoring this funding.
  • Idaho Core Standards. Several school districts — Boise, Pocatello and Moscow — want the ISBA to push for “staying the course” on the newly adopted standards in math and English language arts. The resolution also calls for fully funding implementation and professional development to support Idaho’s version of Common Core.
  • Mastery learning. This resolution recommends moving the basis of public schools’ funding formula away from “seat time,” and towards a formula based on enrollment. This shift would give districts “the flexibility to restructure and redesign education for the 21st century without seat time requirements.” The Otter task force recommends gauging student performance based on subject mastery — and the task force recommends a corresponding change in the school funding formula.
  • A “knowledge- and skill-based” salary index. Supporters of the resolution say this plan will align with Idaho’s move to “mastery-based instruction,” and help Idaho hold on to quality teachers. Supporters also say the idea has political value: “The Idaho Legislature will look more favorably on increasing teacher salaries if accountability and improvement measures are part of a new index.”
  • Certified salaries. Some school districts are putting money from voter-passed levies into salaries for administrators and other certified staff. But this creates an imbalance among districts, which will persist unless the state puts more money into certified staff salaries.
  • Voluntary School Board training. The ISBA already provides training for the state’s unpaid school trustees — and this resolution says districts should decide whether their trustees need schooling. “Access to professional development should be a matter of local control based on knowledge and experience, availability, and the budget. Further, decisions about professional development should not detract from a community’s ability to attract people to run for the local school board.”
  • Local governance. This resolution says a new federal education law — a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act — must also protect local school boards’ autonomy.

And here are the ideas that didn’t make the ISBA executive board’s cut:

  • POST training for teachers. A response to the Newtown, Conn., killings and other school shootings, this resolution calls for allowing school employees to “receive the same training and certification as other first responders and law enforcement officers.” School employees would be allowed to attend the Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy, which provides police training.
  • Non-English language immersion programs. This resolution recommends creating five pilot programs in non-English language immersion. “By offering a rich bilingual experience for young learners when their minds are developmentally best able to acquire a second language (elementary school), students are likely to succeed in second language acquisition.”
  • A statewide software system for data collection. Some districts have complained that the Idaho System for Educational Excellence, the state’s longitudinal data system, is labor-intensive and unreliable. This resolution “would allow school districts and charter schools to opt into a state-provided software application.”

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