Statehouse roundup, 3.8.17: Charter school bill sent out for changes

The House Education Committee sent a charter school bill out for amendments Wednesday after education groups announced they have reached consensus on the legislation.

Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt

The committee considered House Bill 241 Friday, but they temporarily put the bill on hold. Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Education Association leaders said they were cut out of the debate and not consulted on changes the bill would make to education laws.

After spending the weekend reviewing the 16-page bill, the education groups and charter school advocates met and agreed to recommend amendments.

The changes include a slight change in timelines, and removing a controversial portion of the bill. This language would have deleted a requirement that charter schools and their authorizers comply with the state’s general education laws. Idaho Charter School Network lobbyist Emily McClure said all of the groups have agreed to keep existing language in place.

Pushed by Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, HB 241 was pitched as a way to compress the timeline for establishing and authorizing charter schools. DeMordaunt, a school choice advocate and former Idaho Charter School Commission member, said her bill also removes burdensome and duplicative legal and procedural requirements.

The bill next heads to the House floor for amendments. House Education  recommended specific amendments, but any representative may propose any amendment.

Pupil services bonuses

House Education also advanced a bill to make schools’ pupil services staff eligible for certain salary bonuses.

If passed, Senate Bill 1059 would allow pupil services staffers to receive renewable master teacher premiums of $4,000 annually.

Pupil services staffers include school psychologists, social workers and speech clinicians. The bill also changes the name of the salary bonuses from master teacher premiums to master educator premiums, to reflect professionals other than teachers who would be eligible to receive the bonuses.

SB 1059 heads to the House floor with a recommendation it pass. The bill already passed the Senate Feb. 27 on a 33-1 vote.

A ‘Pay for Success’ reset?

In 2015, the Legislature passed a law that would allow private third-party vendors to launch education programs — and collect state dollars if their efforts meet state benchmarks.

The Lee Pesky Learning Center surfaced as one prospective vendor. The Boise-based nonprofit said it was interested in applying the model to early learning initiatives.

But two years later, nothing has happened with the “Pay for Success” concept, because of glitches in that 2015 law. One such glitch: the state doesn’t have a dedicated account to deposit money that might someday go to a vendor.

“We would like to try to use this,” Sen. Bob Nonini, a Coeur d’Alene Republican and Pay for Success advocate, told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday afternoon.

Minutes later, Senate Education endorsed House Bill 199, a bill designed to clean up problems in the initial law. HB 199 goes to the Senate floor. It has already passed the House on a 68-1 vote.

Idaho Education News reporter Kevin Richert contributed to this report.