Statehouse roundup, 3.10.20: House Ed endorses standards interim committee

The Legislature moved one step closer Tuesday to creating an interim committee to study and recommend a replacement to Idaho’s academic content standards.

The House Education Committee voted unanimously to advance Senate Concurrent Resolution 132, authorizing such a committee.

Sen. Dean Mortimer

Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, urged House Education to adopt the resolution in the spirit of cooperation.

“This resolution is the first step in making this happen, it sends a message that basically says we want to start fresh,” Mortimer said.

The academic standards debate has dominated the 2020 legislative session, and it’s no surprise House Education wants to replace content standards.

Last month, House Education voted to repeal all standards in math, English and science — even though legislators didn’t have any new standards to replace them. Senate Education later overruled House Education by approving the standards.

Then, last week, the House and Senate education committees signed off on a letter to Gov. Brad Little, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra and the State Board of Education calling to replace the standards.

That brings us to SCR 132. The interim committee would be instructed to “undertake and complete a study of the Idaho Content Standards and recommend new content standards for Idaho schools.”

“It will take our best minds and efforts. It will take a considerable amount of time and funding in the long run,” Mortimer said. “Is it worth it? Yes, our children are worth it, our teaching community is worth it. We can do it and we must do it.”

Democrats, who pointed out that the vast majority of professional educators and administrators who testified over the standards this year supported retaining them, asked that education stakeholders and practitioners be represented on any new interim committee.

“It is important all parties come to the table,” said Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.

SCR 132 heads next to the House floor with a recommendation it passes. The resolution previously passed the Senate 31-3 on Feb. 12.

Transgender athletics bill amended

A divided Senate voted to amend the controversial transgender athletics bill — paving the way for a possible vote in the coming days.

The amendments are designed to address one of the recurring concerns with the bill: the appeals process.

As amended, the bill would require a student’s personal health care provider to determine an athlete’s gender in the event of a dispute. That review might — or might not — entail an investigation of “the student’s reproductive anatomy.”

Critics have said House Bill 500, in its original form, would require such a physical exam to resolve any appeal. It is one of several legal issues raised in a recent attorney general’s opinion.

The amended bill would also direct the State Board of Education to spell out rules for implementing the restrictions on transgender athletes.

Dubbed the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act by its sponsors, HB 500 would ban transgender women and girls from playing in girls’ and women’s sports. Voting on party lines Monday, the Senate State Affairs sent HB 500 to the Senate for amendments.

The Senate approved the amendments on a voice vote, with Democrats audibly opposed to the amendments.

Teacher certification bill heads to Senate floor

Without debate, Senate Education endorsed a bill to relax teacher certification requirements for graduates of nonpublic training programs.

House Bill 599 would apply to Idaho’s private schools — Northwest Nazarene University, the College of Idaho and Brigham Young University-Idaho. But the driving force is to help nontraditional training programs: the American Board for the Certification of Teacher Excellence and Teach for America.

The nontraditional programs, particularly ABCTE, struggle to meet current teacher certification requirements, said Rep. Gary Marshall, R-Idaho Falls, HB 599’s sponsor. Based on academic discipline, new teachers need to meet 270 to 320 individual standards.

In time, Marshall wants to see the state scale back its certification requirements, making them more realistic and workable.

“I believe this piece of legislation is a beginning,” he said.

Under HB 599, graduates from a nonpublic program can receive a teaching certificate if they obtain a bachelor’s degree, pass a criminal background check and pass content and pedagogical training that aligns with state academic standards.

With Senate Education’s unanimous support, HB 599 heads to the floor for a final vote — continuing on a legislative fast track. House Education printed the bill last week, bypassing a traditional committee hearing. The House passed HB 599 Thursday, on a party-line vote.


Flexible scheduling

A divided House Education advanced a homeschool-light bill pushed by Senate Education Vice Chairman Steven Thayn, R-Emmett.

Steven Thayn, R-Emmett.

Thayn, who said his grandchildren are pilot testing the proposal in Challis, is urging the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 1293.

The bill would create flexible scheduling for elementary school students who are advanced in school. Thayn’s bill would make it so that advanced students only have to attend school 65 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the schools would be funded as if the students still attended at the school’s overall average attendance rate.

Thayn has said students could miss class one day per week throughout the year for recreation, travel, home-based education activities or family activities.

Because many Idaho schools are on a four-day schedule, that means advanced students might be able to attend school three days per week.

“It recognizes that as important as schools and teachers are in learning, learning also takes place outside of the school and parents and family activities are an important part of student learning,” Thayn said. “I am interested in what is good for children. That is my motivation here.”

Thayn said he hopes the bill will combat boredom in school by allowing students to leave and focus on other activities or take vacations with their families. He said it would provide an incentive for students to get ahead and stay ahead. If students fall behind, they would no longer be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling.

“Some people see this as a bill for kids to get out of school to do nothing,” Thayn said. “This is absolutely not the case.”

McCrostie questioned why the bill was necessary.

“I feel like I’m missing something,” McCrostie said. “I don’t think we need this bill in order for kids to take trips to go with their parents. I mean, they do that now.”

House Education voted 9-5 to advance SB 1293. It heads next to the House floor with a recommendation it passes. The bill previously passed 23-11 on Feb. 18.



Kevin Richert and Clark Corbin

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