New charter bill and tax cut proposal surface

Members of the House Education Committee voted Monday to introduce a bill designed to give charter schools more flexibility in hiring.

Pushed by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, the bill would allow charters to hire professionals who don’t already hold an administrator’s certificate.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale

Under the bill, individuals would be eligible for a new charter administrator’s certificate if they hold a bachelor’s degree, submit to a criminal background check, complete three semester credits of coursework on Idaho teacher evaluations and receive a letter from the charter’s board of directors.

Boyle told Idaho Education News her bill is based on existing laws in other states and is designed to alleviate difficulties charters experience hiring administrators.

Boyle gave the example of a NASA scientist or administrator as the type of person would be helped by this bill. She suggested the bill is designed for professionals who already have a degree and industry experience, but who do not hold a teaching or administrator’s certificate.

Boyle said the new charter administrator’s certificate would be valid for five years, and then renewable after that. The certification would also be subject to oversight of the Professional Standards Commission, which regulates educator certification in Idaho.

Introducing the bill clears the way for it to return to House Education for a full hearing.

New tax cut surfaces

In other action Monday, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted to introduce several new tax cut proposals.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens

Pushed by Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, one of the new bills would repeal Idaho’s sales tax on groceries, while repealing the grocery tax credit and reducing both the individual and corporate tax rates.

Barbieri’s bill would lower the individual income tax rate by .5 percent while slashing the corporate tax rate by 2.4 percent.

A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates the different tax cuts included in the legislation would reduce the state’s general fund revenue by $264.7 million.

Barbieri’s bill appears to be in competition with another tax bill, House Bill 463. HB 463, which passed the House 59-11 last week, cuts the individual and corporate income tax rates by a smaller margin of .475 percent each. Unlike the new bill, HB 463 does not repeal the sales tax on groceries.

Introducing the new tax cut bill clears the way for it to return to House Revenue and Taxation for a full hearing.

State Board of Education executive level hiring

The Senate Education Committee kicked off the week by introducing a new bill granting the State Board of Education authority to restructure its staff and make executive level hires.

The new bill purposely leaves out specific job titles and duties. But, if it is signed into law, the bill would allow the State Board to hire the chief education officer position Gov. Butch Otter has pushed for.

Marilyn Whitney

Marilyn Whitney, Otter’s deputy chief of staff and education liaison, said the bill is designed to allow the State Board to make executive level hires that will lead to efficiencies and move toward a unified level of higher education “systemness” “(Otter’s) aim is to give them the ability to make those decisions and hire staff to make large scale changes envisioned by the task force,” Whitney said.

Whitney said the State Board and Otter have yet to decide what the actual job title and duties will be. The bill does come with a $269,000 price tag for hiring one full-time employee, the same cost estimate Otter had pitched for a CEO’s salary and benefits.

The goal with realizing such back office savings and efficiencies would be to invest those savings in ways that open up higher education to more Idahoans, Whitney said.

Although there are many unanswered questions about the higher education executive position, Whitney is asking the Legislature to approve the bill this session. She said it is important any new State Board executive be in place before the end of the year, so that person could review a proposed consultant’s study of Idaho’s higher education landscape and then push to implement what Whitney described as “large scale changes.”

One potential large change Whitney outlined is a digital campus, which she said would make higher education more attainable for more Idahoans.

Some committee members appeared skeptical of the bill, but still voted to introduce it.

“I still have many questions, but I believe it warrants greater conversation in-depth,” Sen. Cheri Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, said.

Introducing the bill clears the way for it to return to Senate Education for a full hearing.

Monday was the last day for the Senate Education Committee, and many other legislative panels, to introduce new bills this year. However, the House Education Committee is considered a “privileged” committee and is allowed to introduce new bills late into the legislative session.

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