Statehouse roundup, 3.25.19: House Education to continue funding formula debate Tuesday

The late-session efforts to pass some sort of bill addressing Idaho’s K-12 public school funding formula will continue Tuesday.

Rep. Lance Clow

House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said his committee will consider introducing a funding formula bill Tuesday morning as a courtesy to the Senate.

Clow said the bill won’t be a full funding formula overhaul. Instead, it would require school districts to define enrollment and begin tracking enrollment numbers by student groups, so the state will have valid data available to use if the Legislature later rewrites the funding formula.

“It’s not a full funding formula bill, but it would establish programs where schools will track the various types of enrollment,” Clow said.

Clow described a bill similar to a draft that Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer failed to introduce last week. Clow said the bill he will consider introducing Tuesday is about 8 pages in length and was developed by Senate Education members.

Last week, Mortimer told Idaho Education News that he had helped prepare a “definitions” bill to clarify about terms and definitions and begin tracking data that would help inform a transition to a new funding formula.

But Mortimer’s draft bill was more than a definitions bill. It would have mandated that the education committees review the formula every five years, beginning in 2024. It also would have enacted numerous reporting requirements forcing schools to track expenses in new ways.

It was not immediately clear late Monday morning if Clow is considering that same draft.

The last time Clow attempted to introduce a funding formula bill, eight House Education members missed the meeting, blocking Clow from taking any action and forcing him to adjourn the meeting early.

The school funding formula debate has loomed large over the entire legislative session, despite the fact that an actual bill has yet to advance beyond the committee stage. Over three years, a legislative interim committee developed a recommendation to ditch Idaho’s 25-year-old attendance-based funding formula and replace it with an enrollment model, where funding follows the student.

Legislators worked behind the scenes for more than two months, developing more than a dozen drafts of funding formula bills. House Education killed one such draft at an introductory hearing March 11.

Meanwhile, the Senate managed to introduce a full-blown overhaul, Senate Bill 1196.

However, Senate Education has never voted on SB 1196, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, at one point suggested the bill may be dead.

During the lone public hearing on SB 1196 on March 18, educators from across the state urged legislators to slow down on the process, continue the discussion into next year and take their time to get it right.

Education spending is the state’s largest general fund expense each year, accounting for almost $2 billion in taxpayer dollars. So any attempt to change Idaho’s school funding formula is being closely scrutinized by educators, taxpayers and the news media.

Teach for America bill advances

In other action Monday, the House signed on to Senate amendments to a bill involving nontraditional teacher preparation programs.

House Bill 93aaS would make it so that state-approved nontraditional teacher prep programs such as Teach for America or ABCTE could partner with local school districts to place teachers and then request a share of state funding.

The Senate’s amendment caps the amount of state funding TFA and ABCTE could receive at 25 percent of a teacher’s annual salary.

A fiscal note attached to the bill estimates the program could cost $200,000 per year.

A national program founded in 1990, TFA places about 40 teachers in Idaho classrooms, without receiving state funding.

The bill has already passed the Senate 33-0. It heads next to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for final consideration.

K-12 school budget ‘trailer bill’

As expected, the House voted Monday to approve additional funding to cover Little’s initiative to raise the minimum teacher pay.

Representatives voted 60-7 to pass House Bill 286, which provides $3.8 million in next year’s school budget to begin the two-year process for raising salaries.

Last week, Little signed House Bill 153, his plan to raise starting teacher pay to $40,000, prompting the followup budget bill.

Minimum teacher salaries will increase to $38,500 next year and $40,000 in 2020-21. The current minimum salary is $35,800.

The House Education Committee’s Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, voted against the budget bill, even though she voted for HB 153. Moon didn’t explain her vote.

HB 286 heads to the Senate for consideration.

Early graduation

The House voted unanimously Monday to approve a high school student’s bill to give high-performing students more flexibility.

Nampa High School student body president Sebastian Griffin, a former Senate page, helped draft Senate Bill 1060. If the bill passes, students who maintain high benchmarks including a 3.5 GPA could graduate early or take college courses or work on an internship or apprenticeship.

“It’s a simple bill that offers another pathway for students who are highly motivated in high school to graduate early,” said sponsoring Rep. Ron Mendive, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Griffin told Senate Education last month that he believes the bill would help some of his highly motivated peers get a jumpstart on life after high school.

SB 1060 next returns to the Senate for consideration of House amendments to the bill.

Red tape bill

The House also voted unanimously to approve an amended version of schools chief Sherri Ybarra’s red tape bill.

Ybarra and her Red Tape Committee pushed Senate Bill 1057, designed to remove a handful of redundant paperwork requirements for school districts.

Last week, the House amended the bill to reinstate a requirement for school districts to “include a report of progress toward the previous year’s improvement goals.”

Eliminating that line was one of Ybarra’s specific requests, since she said the requirement is also a part of Idaho’s new school “report card” that districts and charters must post online. But some House Education members were rankled by that elimination.

SB 1057 next returns to the Senate for consideration of the House’s amendment.

Teacher recertification

Without debate, the House also passed a bill to tweak teacher recertification requirements.

Idaho requires teachers who wish to recertify to earn credits by completing professional development courses.

“The problem is if you are the one teaching those classes you can’t get credit,” said sponsoring Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls. “(If this bill passes) if you are the teacher teaching the teachers, you can also get credit.”

Senate Bill 1104a passed the House 62-0. It previously passes the Senate 33-1. It heads next to Little’s desk.


Clark Corbin

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