Ybarra, State Board of Education turn over ESSA plan to Otter

Gov. Butch Otter is beginning his 30-day review of Idaho’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

And at the end of the review period, Otter plans to submit a written response to the State Department of Education and the State Board of Education, said Marilyn Whitney, Otter’s deputy chief of staff and senior special assistant for education and government services.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra and State Board President Linda Clark signed the plan and sent it to Otter Wednesday.

Sherri Ybarra, left, and Linda Clark pose for a photo after signing the ESSA plan Wednesday. Photo courtesy of State Department of Education.

The ESSA plan is important because it represents Idaho’s application for about $83 million in annual federal funding. The plan also includes the state’s first public school accountability system since 2014 and directs the implementation of nine federal programs that affect students with disadvantages and direct professional development training for teachers.

Whitney, who has studied the 84-page plan in detail, said Otter will begin his review in earnest next week.

So far, Whitney said she hasn’t encountered anything in the plan that conflicts with Otter’s overall vision for education as the state’s No. 1 priority.

“The ESSA plan is about higher standards, and teaching to those higher academic standards,” she said. “The governor has been very supportive of very rigorous standards in our education system and more family and community engagement.”

Otter has followed the plan through its development, and met with State Board members and education officials as they developed the accountability system, Whitney said. During his review, Otter may seek additional information or pose questions to Ybarra or the State Board.

Whitney also said the plan does not conflict with the 20 recommendations that Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education issued in 2013. State legislators are about to enter their fourth year of implementing several task force recommendations, and Whitney doesn’t see the ESSA plan changing that focus.

“The ESSA plan was put together based on the work of the task force, and implementation will go on,” she said.

Otter did have one concern — that educators and other school officials maintain a seat at the table and have a venue for sharing input, Whitney said.

Earlier this summer, Idaho Education News reported that Idaho Education Association and Idaho School Boards Association leaders wrote to Otter to tell him they were kept in the dark about the plan and felt disrespected.

That letter prompted State Board member Debbie Critchfield and several SDE officials to quickly organize a series of meetings devoted to the complex ESSA plan.

“The process matters to the governor,” said Whitney, adding that Otter was pleased the concerns were addressed. “He wants to make sure stakeholders have the opportunity to be included in the conversation.”

Ybarra faces a Sept. 18 deadline to submit Idaho’s completed plan to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education. The feds may take up to 120 days to review the plan.

See for yourself

Idaho’s ESSA plan is available to read at the SDE’s website.

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