State preps educators for new laws

With 74 days of motions, budgets and votes to get lost in, McCall-Donnelly Superintendent Glen Szymoniak needed a refresher on recent legislative action affecting his school district.

Luna presser
Tom Luna

That’s why he and 139 other educators and school officials attended Tuesday’s post-legislative forum in Boise, sponsored by the State Department of Education. One of six events held this month across the state, Tuesday’s forum included a daylong overview of new education laws, a budget outlook and a WiFi update.

(Related: For a summary of how all 105 lawmakers voted on every major education bill in 2014, click here).

For Szymoniak and McCall-Donnelly business manager Cheryl Moriarty, the forum offered a chance to report back to staff and school board members about the new laws – many of which become official July 1.

Both wanted to advise the school board about how the $15.8 million in teacher leadership awards must be awarded. Szymoniak also was interested in advanced opportunities for high school students.

“Some years we are able to follow everything through the Legislature and provide input to our representatives, but other years we get busy and are not able keep up on everything,” Szymoniak said.  “This is a situation where we come and can ask questions and get clarification from of the State Department of Education people about recent legislation that has passed.”

Here’s what Szymoniak and others learned:

Teacher leadership awards, House Bill 504:

  • School boards must decide on criteria, and decide how many one-time bonuses will be awarded.
  • Awards range from $850 to $5,838.50.
  • Certificated instructional employees can receive a premium for several factors, including mentoring other teachers, accepting hard-to-fill positions, teaching a course in which they hold a master’s degree or teaching dual credit courses.
  • Individual teachers can receive more than one award, but bonuses do not carry over from one year to the next.

Advanced opportunities, Senate Bill 1233a:

  • The state will pay $200 for high school juniors and $400 for high school seniors to take dual-credit or professional-technical courses – up to 75 percent of the cost of courses and examinations.
  • Public school or charter students who complete their K-12 curriculum at least one year early will be eligible for a mastery advancement scholarship, whether their school participates in the mastery advancement program or not.

State Superintendent Tom Luna said State Department of Education officials offer post-session forums annually.

“Every year the Legislature deals with many issues that have a direct impact on education,” Luna said. “Quite often, some of the biggest issues – from the budget to laws to compensation – education is on the forefront. This gives us the opportunity to go spend the day with teams from every school district.”

The forums continue Wednesday and Thursday in Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston, respectively.

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