Statehouse roundup, 2.6.24: Bill to shorten library board terms advances

Public library trustees could face elections more often, after the Senate Tuesday advanced a bill to shorten their election terms. 

Trustees currently are elected to five- or six-year terms, depending on whether they’re members of a city library or library district board. Senate Bill 1235 would limit all library board terms to four years. 

“Parents want to have more say in what’s going on in their library districts,” said Sen. Scott Herndon, R-Sagle, the bill’s sponsor. “They also want to have more say as far as how long those people are in office.”

The proposal comes as public libraries face persistent scrutiny over the subject of content accessible to minors, particularly books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters

There was no negative debate from the Senate Tuesday, before half a dozen Republicans joined six Democrats in opposing Herndon’s bill. Ultimately, it passed by a 22-12 vote and now heads to the House.

Senators hear a pair of CTE case studies

The Senate Education Committee heard a status report about career-technical education Tuesday — and they heard case studies from the classroom.

After state CTE administrator Clay Long offered an overview — about the process of finding and hiring teachers, and the growth in CTE student numbers — he turned over the podium to Cara Shuldberg and Elijah Zimmerman.

Shuldberg has spent the past 27 years helping to co-manage her family’s dairy farm near Terreton. She’s also attending Idaho State University, pursuing a master’s degree in teaching. She hopes to graduate in 2025, and plans to teach business classes at nearby West Jefferson High School or Idaho State. “I really know what I want to do with the rest of my life,” she told senators. “Even if my husband thinks this is part of my midlife crisis.”

Zimmerman, a senior at Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, is president of Idaho’s chapter of HOSA, an international organization for students pursuing a career in health care. He said his four years with HOSA, and the chance to study at a high school focused on health care, will better prepare him for the demands of the field.

And, he said, it will help him do his part to offset a looming shortage of health care professionals. “Together we will be greater than ever before,” he said.

CTE students and representatives from the state’s six technical schools crowded the Senate committee room Tuesday afternoon. A similar presentation is scheduled for Wednesday morning in the House Education Committee.

Bill expands eligible CTE scholarship expenses

High school students could have some more options for spending their Advanced Opportunities dollars.

The House Education Committee unanimously passed a bill that would allow students to spend up to $1,000 on a career-technical education course.

Currently, students can spend up to $1,000 per year on CTE courses, but only $500 per class. Lifting the $500-per-course cap would give students a little bit more flexibility, said Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, the bill’s sponsor.

McCann estimated that about 50 to 150 students may take advantage of the change.

With the committee’s vote, House Bill 454 now heads to the House floor, for a possible vote in the next few days.

IDLA funding rewrite heads to the House floor

House Education also endorsed a bill to simplify — and, at least in the short run, reduce — Idaho Digital Learning Alliance funding.

House Bill 452 would provide IDLA $430 for every class a student takes. The IDLA’s current funding formula is tied to other factors that have nothing to do with the online program, such as statewide salary-based apportionment, said Rep. James Petzke, R-Meridian, the bill’s sponsor.

The new formula would provide IDLA with about $21.4 million next year, a $1.3 million decrease. Nonetheless, IDLA Superintendent Jeff Simmons spoke in favor of the bill.

“It makes the funding formula much easier to understand,” he said. “We’re completely in support of this.”

Former legislator Branden Durst testified against the bill. Durst said he worked on the current formula, which was written to protect IDLA funding during a recession. The $430 multiplier — which the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee could increase or decrease — gives too much power to Petzke and fellow JFAC members, Durst said.

The committee voted unanimously to send HB 452 to the House floor.

Bill would allow chiropractors to evaluate student athlete concussions

Chiropractors in Idaho currently can’t certify that a student athlete can return to play after a concussion, but a new bill would change that.

Licensed chiropractors trained in concussion management would be added to a statutory list of health care professionals who can evaluate and authorize student athletes for concussions. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Tuesday agreed to introduce the legislation.

“This seems pretty straightforward,” said bill sponsor Sen. Carl Bjerke, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Other professions statutorily allowed to do concussion management for students are physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and other health care professionals who are trained in concussion management and supervised by a physician.

Kevin Richert and Ryan Suppe

Kevin Richert and Ryan Suppe

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. Senior reporter Ryan Suppe covers education policy, focusing on K-12 schools. He previously reported on state politics, local government and business.

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