Statehouse roundup, 3.11.19: House Education kills Ybarra’s teacher pipeline proposal

The House Education Committee killed a teacher pipeline bill sponsored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, in other action from a roller coaster Monday morning.

Ybarra pushed House Bill 218 as a multifaceted approach to recruit and retain teachers in rural schools.

Ybarra’s bill would have done three things:

  • It would have created a grow-your-own program to encourage paraprofessionals or classified staff members to earn a teaching certificate.
  • It would have created a $10,000 rural Idaho fellowship program.
  • It would have created a $6,000 certification and retention bonus.

“The point of this bill is to attract folks into these rural areas and have them set up roots and keep them there,” said Ybarra, touching on her own background as an educator who came to work and raise a family in Mountain Home.

Ybarra’s bill wouldn’t have taken effect until July 1, 2020 and would not have affected next year’s school budget.

The Idaho Education Association and Idaho Business for Education supported Ybarra’s bill, while the State Board of Education voiced support for the general concept. None of that ultimately mattered, as a majority of Ybarra’s fellow Republicans teamed up to kill the bill.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, said the bill was too costly. She also objected to Ybarra’s unorthodox request — asking the Legislature to pass the bill in 2019, effective in 2020.

“I don’t understand why it came up this month,” Moon said.

Making a point that was difficult to follow, Rep. Barbara Ehardt said she needed a flow chart to see how much money is spent on education and who is in charge of various education groups, such as the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and how such groups interact with each other.

“It is hard, as these things come before us, to know where we are with what,” said Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls.

The Legislature sets budgets for public schools, the State Board and the SDE, and education funding is found in those budgets. Furthermore, the Idaho Constitution and state law spell out the roles of the SDE and State Board, and how those groups interact.

Ehardt also referenced stakeholder groups or associations that represent their various memberships, such as the Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Education Association. These groups are not a part of state government.

Regardless, the bill’s defeat was another setback to Ybarra’s legislative agenda:

  • Earlier this year her $20 million school safety proposal was rejected with little discussion.
  • Budget writers also approved a much smaller school budget than the 8 percent increase Ybarra recommended.
  • Finally, Ybarra’s $28 million proposal to increase teacher pay beyond the career ladder didn’t even get a hearing or wind up in bill form.

Tempering the bad news, budget writers did embrace Ybarra’s $14.8 million proposal to increase discretionary spending for school districts, directing more money to health care costs and increase the overall pool of discretionary funding sent to school districts.

Senator unveils ‘Idaho Promise’ scholarship

A new scholarship program could help Idaho make progress toward its elusive “60 percent goal,” state Sen. Grant Burgoyne says.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise

Burgoyne unveiled his “Idaho Promise” scholarship plan Monday, but doesn’t plan to run a bill until the 2020 legislative session.

“We have quite a bit of work to do,” Burgoyne, D-Boise, said during a news conference Monday.

Burgoyne modeled his proposal after other states’ programs — including the Tennessee Promise program, which has been credited with helping to improve college completion rates in that state. Idaho, meanwhile, has made little progress in its efforts to convince 60 percent of its 25- to 34-year-olds to earn a college degree or career-technical certificate. Idaho’s completion rate is mired at 42 percent.

Idaho Promise would provide “last dollar” scholarships to community college or career-technical students. Scholarship recipients would still have to apply for federal financial aid and agree to take part in a community service program.

The idea is to provide more than financial aid, said Jean Henscheid, an education consultant working with Burgoyne on his bill. Postsecondary institutions would be required to provide mentoring designed to make sure high school graduates follow up on their plans to stay in school.

In the offseason, Burgoyne says he will work with educators and business and nonprofit groups on his proposal — and look for ways to drive down the potential cost.

Based on an initial estimate, the Idaho Promise program could cost $18 million. However, federal Pell grants, the Idaho Opportunity Scholarship and dual-credit courses could all help cover student bills and reduce program costs.

“This has to pencil out,” Burgoyne said.

TFA funding bill hits a detour

A bill to provide programs such as Teach for America a share of state funding is going to get a rewrite.

The Senate Education Committee sent House Bill 93 to the Senate floor’s amending order.

At issue is the potential cost.

HB 93 would make state funding available for nontraditional teacher preparation programs, such as Teach for America and the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. The programs would have to at least match any state funding.

While HB 93 doesn’t earmark any state funding, it could eventually carry a price tag — possibly $200,000 in state funding, according to the bill’s statement of purpose.

But at this late stage of the session, any amendment could derail the bill. If the amended bill passes the Senate, the House would have to vote again and approve the new version.

The House passed the original version of HB 93 on Feb. 28, on a 43-25 vote.



Kevin Richert and Clark Corbin

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