Statehouse roundup, 3.3.23: Critchfield’s CTE, school board training bills surface

Two pieces of state superintendent Debbie Critchfield’s legislative agenda surfaced Friday morning.

The House Education Committee introduced Critchfield’s long-awaited piece of career-technical education legislation, and a bill requiring school trustee trainings.

The CTE bill is designed to expand programs, particularly in rural Idaho. The bill would create a $45 million program for middle and high schools across Idaho to seek grant money for CTE.

The funding could be used to establish and promote public-private partnerships between districts and local businesses, or apprenticeships for students. Specific funding uses would be determined by the Idaho Career Ready Students Program Council.

The bill also calls for an added $5 million in ongoing support for CTE programs through the Division of Career-Technical Education.

The committee quickly introduced the bill with a unanimous vote.

Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, presented a bill that requires training for all district school boards and charter school boards of directors. Initial trainings should cover:

  • The role of a trustee or director.
  • Data literacy.
  • A board-driven goal to improve student achievement.
  • How to evaluate an administrator or superintendent.
  • Media training.
  • Open meeting laws.
  • Public records laws.

Boards should also participate in a biennial training to learn about planning, transparency, finance, and bonds and levies. Training would be provided by the State Department of Education, or an SDE-authorized provider.

Lent said around half of Idaho school districts use the funding available for optional school board trainings — and those who do participate tend to have higher student achievement. The bill would ensure all districts utilize the funding for its intended purpose, with the hope that student achievement, along with board efficiency, will improve statewide.

It also eliminates the governor’s commission for education excellence — established by the Legislature last year — which has been ineffective, Lent told the committee. He said the state lacked the “energy and vision” to get the commission off the ground. “It just wasn’t going to get off the ground.”

Rep. Jack Nelsen, R-Jerome, praised the bill’s $1.5 million price tag — including $848,000 of new money. “If we can get this done for $1.5 million, hallelujah.” 

The bill was introduced 13-3.

Both bills are likely to return to House Education for hearings.

Sex ed opt-in bill, sexualization ban introduced

A House committee quickly introduced a sex-ed “opt-in” bill, and a bill “to establish the prohibition against the sexualization of children.”

Both bills were co-sponsored by Rep. Elaine Price, R-Coeur d’Alene.

The sex ed bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Toews, R-Coeur d’Alene, would require written parental permission for children to take a sex education course. That would be a reversal from the current law, which allows for parents to opt their children out of sex ed.

Schools would be required to offer alternative classes to children who aren’t in a sex ed class. Parents would be able to sue a school that violates the opt-in law.

The opt-in proposal isn’t new. The House passed an opt-in bill in 2021 on a party-line vote, but the Senate Education Committee voted it down.

The sexualization bill would prohibit any K-12 school or public college or university from using its buildings “to host or promote any sexually oriented materials, event, or literature for children under the age of 18.”

Parents would be able to sue a school employee who violates the law.

Sen. Cindy Carlson, R-Riggins, is co-sponsoring the sexualization bill.

The House State Affairs Committee introduced both bills Friday, but they won’t necessarily stay there.

State Affairs introduced the sex ed bill at the request of House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie Yamamoto, State Affairs Chairman Brent Crane said. The bill will almost certainly go back to House Education, where it could get a full hearing, Crane said.

The sexualization bill could end up in House State Affairs or House Education, Crane said.

Teacher apprenticeship bill heads to House

A teacher apprenticeship bill easily passed the Senate Friday.

Senate Bill 1069 would allow aspiring teachers to work as paid apprentices while they pursue their bachelor’s degree.

Similar programs have worked in other states, and has helped rural schools find teachers, said Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, who is co-sponsoring the bill with fellow Boise Democratic Sen. Carrie Semmelroth and the State Board of Education.

“I think it has the potential to alleviate some of the teacher shortage in our state,” Ward-Engelking said.

SB 1069 passed on a 32-1 vote, with Kellogg Republican Phil Hart casting the sole dissenting vote. The bill goes to the House.

Committee approves charter school revolving fund

House Education approved a $50 million revolving loan fund for charter school facilities Friday morning.

The fund would lend four new charter schools per year up to $2.5 million each, for a total of $10 million annually. After the first five years, the $50 million fund would start to pay for itself as borrowers finish paying back their loans.

The goal is to assist startup charters, which can’t float bonds and levies, fund their buildings and receive lower interest rates on loans.

Representatives from several charter networks, including Elevate Academy and Gem Prep, testified in support of the bill. Darren Uranga, CFO for Elevate, said the bill could save up to $100,000 annually on its new school, to be built in Idaho Falls.

Some committee members voiced concerns that with over $900 million in deferred maintenance needs in traditional public schools, charter school facilities should not be a priority. But most committee members agreed that both charter and traditional school facilities need attention.

“We do support school choice,” said Rep. Lori McCann, R-Lewiston, of her fellow legislators.

The bill passed 15-1. It now heads to the House for a final vote.

House committee moves on three other bills

House Education easily sent two other bills to the House, and introduced a third bill Friday morning.

Career exploration. Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, returned to the committee with a revised proposal to kickstart career exploration courses for middle schoolers. The bill requires students to take one career exploration course in seventh or eighth grade. The committee introduced the bill unanimously.

Military scholarships. The committee passed an amendment to the Armed Forces and Public Safety Officer Scholarship. The bill:

  • Boosts the allocation for books from $500 to $750.
  • Increases eligibility from 10 to 19 years after obtaining a high school diploma.
  • Ensures Idaho residents are eligible for the benefits.
  • Corrects a determination of disability for members of the Armed Forces.

The committee sent the bill to the House with a 15-1 vote.

Teacher certification. Rep. Soñia Galaviz, D-Boise, presented a bill that removes teacher certification standards from Idaho Code and inserts them into rule. It would allow state leaders to make changes to the standards.

The bill is backed by the State Board of Education. After a unanimous vote from the committee, it will head to the House.


Kevin Richert and Sadie Dittenber

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