Statehouse roundup, 2.24.17: House panel orders changes to Otter’s scholarship bill

The House Education Committee ordered changes to Gov. Butch Otter’s bill designed to help Idahoans return to college.

House Bill 190 would have created a $3,000 annual scholarship for state residents who have earned at least 24 college credits but left school and never earned a degree.

Otter’s education liaison Marilyn Whitney told legislators the bill would jumpstart the workforce and help the state reach its signature goal of seeing 60 percent of young adults hold a postsecondary degree of certificate by 2020.

In the last five years, 60,000 Idahoans dropped out of college after earning enough credits to be eligible for the proposed new scholarship, supporters said.

“We believe it will move the needle,” Whitney said. “This is a very modest start, but we think it is an important start to helping adults get back into some sort of postsecondary program and finish.”

But committee members were skeptical, devoting more than an hour to picking apart the two-page bill.

Rep. Don Cheatham, R-Post Falls, worried the bill would adversely affect veterans benefits, although State Board of Education officials told him they drafted the bill so it wouldn’t.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, worried about what would happen to the state’s money if a student used the scholarship to enroll, but then dropped out again.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, expressed frustration that students attending the Treasure Valley Community College’s Caldwell campus would not be eligible for the scholarship. State officials said the scholarship would only be valid at Idaho-based colleges, and that TVCC is an Oregon-based institution.

Meanwhile, officials from Boise State University, the Idaho Department of Commerce, Micron, College of Western Idaho and Idaho Business for Education all urged passage of the bill.

Lawmakers killed a similar adult scholarship bill last year after legislators complained it rewarded people for dropping out of school.

The current scholarship bill heads next to the House floor for possible amendments. Anyone can propose any amendment to the bill, making its prospects for advancing uncertain.

Reporting requirements

In other action Friday, House Education picked apart an administrative rule that outlines data reporting requirements for a pair of recent education laws.

The rule governs the reporting process for school districts’ literacy intervention plans and college and career advising plans.

Committee members actually wrestled with the reporting requirements on Wednesday, but did not take action until Friday.

When the two laws first passed, lawmakers asked for the reporting requirements as a form of accountability. But now that the laws are on the books, lawmakers wanted to avoid burdening schools with data entry requirements and to remove redundant reporting requirements.

“It was duplicative for school districts to have to do this twice,” Gooding Democratic Rep. Sally Toone said. “(But) we need to see accountability. We need to be accountable for the money we were spending last year (on literacy training and college and career counseling).”

The House panel removed requirements for districts to report a summary of the literacy interventions used at each grade level and the prior year’s budget for literacy training. It left intact reporting requirements for the current year’s budget and a listing of the metrics used to determine the effectiveness of local literacy plans.

The committee also removed four of the five reporting requirements for the college and career advising program, but left in place requirements to report the current school year’s budget for the program.

Even though the House Education Committee cut back on reporting requirements, it did not go as far as the Senate Education Committee. Senate Education called for striking all reporting requirements for the literacy plans and the college and career advising plans.

House Education Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, said she met with members of Senate Education and reached consensus on the changes the House made. That means she may send the rule back to the Senate to see if it will sign off on the changes.