Statehouse roundup, 3.8.22: House approves school mask mandate opt-outs

A bill allowing parents to opt their children out of K-12 school mask mandates passed the Idaho House on party lines with no debate Tuesday.

House Bill 734 aims to let parents sign a form to get their children out of school mask mandates, and students who are 18 or older to do so for themselves.

The bill has gone from targeting existing mandates upon its introduction, to hedging against future mandates upon its passage through the House.

After the Boise School District dropped its mask requirement Monday, an EdNews search found only two active mask mandates at Idaho K-12 schools, both at partner charter schools Sage International School and Forge International School. Amid declining coronavirus cases, both schools’ mandates will be lifted Wednesday.

“Happy to report, that was the last of it,” bill sponsor Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, said of the Boise district’s decision. “Now, is that the last that we’ll see of (school mask mandates)? That’s anyone’s guess.”

HB 734 now heads to the Senate, where a more sweeping proposal to ban government mask mandates, including those issued by schools, now sits.

Other news from the Statehouse Tuesday:

Dyslexia supports. A bill meant to screen students for dyslexia and provide teachers with professional development to help affected students passed the House unanimously and undebated.

House Bill 731 is the culmination of competing proposals and negotiations that have made rounds through the Statehouse this session. HB 731 has pulled consensus support from state superintendent Sherri Ybarra and grassroots leaders who have pushed for legislative action.

Dyslexia affects 20% of students, according to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. HB 734, geared at helping that sizable minority of the population, now heads to the Senate.

Administrative rules. The House nearly unanimously voted to reject a set of administrative rules that the State Board of Education sets for schools.

House Concurrent Resolution 45 rejects five rules, including that high school students must take two credits of math in their last year of high school. Education committee members called for that change to avoid preventing students from graduating early.

As part of the state’s arcane rule making process, both houses of the Legislature must reject rules that don’t deal with funding — these five don’t — in order to supersede State Board decisions. HCR 45 sponsor Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said his proposal has the bicameral consensus needed to clear that bar.

EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. 

Blake Jones

Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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