Schools chief Sherri Ybarra and her State Department of Education will miss today’s self-imposed deadline to submit their plan for complying with federal education laws to the State Board of Education.
According to the SDE’s official timeline for complying with the Every Student Succeeds Act — still publicly posted on the SDE’s website as of Tuesday afternoon — the SDE was supposed to submit the plan to the State Board today. This deadline was designed to give State Board members one month to review the plan before voting on it during December’s meeting.
Instead, the SDE is scrapping the timeline in order to gather more feedback from Idahoans who believe they have been cut out of the process.
“Openness and more opportunity for stakeholders and individuals to comment is the key to this change,” Ybarra’s spokesman Jeff Church wrote in an email.
Over the past two weeks, teachers, parents, taxpayers, paraprofessionals, community organizations and leaders of major education groups have all said their input was not sought out or built into the draft plan as state officials said it would be.
State Board spokesman Blake Youde confirmed that SDE Chief Policy Officer Duncan Robb sent a letter Monday to the State Board and other education groups announcing the timeline change.
“We received notice yesterday that they would not submit it to the board for the December meeting,” Youde said Tuesday. “It is not that they are not sending it to us; it is that they won’t be sending it to us for the December meeting. I want to be clear about that.”
The SDE’s timeline is now unclear.
Church emphasized that timeline changes won’t affect a March 6 deadline imposed by the U.S. Department of Education for Idaho to submit its final plan. However, he initially told EdNews in an email the State Board would get a revised plan in the Spring. He clarified in a later email, the State Board would get a draft plan “in the new year.”
Idaho Ed News, seeking a precise timeline and detailed plans for how the SDE will gather and incorporate public feedback into a revised plan, has been unable to reach Church by phone this week. He responds with short emails — saying the plan would go to the State Board “in the new year” and providing to a weblink for public feedback.
Youde said the State Board has meetings scheduled for Feb. 15-16 and again in April — but no meeting scheduled for March at this time. He also mentioned the possibility for a July federal deadline, a date SDE officials did not document in their timeline.
The ESSA plan is required to govern Idaho public schools and charters and is scheduled to take affect on July 1.
“The board wants to make sure that whatever timeframe we follow — whether it is a March submittal or a July submittal, which is the second opportunity — that enough time has been taken to develop a high-quality plan that can be submitted and approved by the U.S. Department of Education,” Youde said. “At the end of the day, this plan becomes the state’s official plan for how we comply with the federal elementary and secondary education requirements, and how federal funds related to those programs are spent.”
Idaho has not had a public school accountability plan in place at any point since Ybarra took office in January 2015. Former state superintendent Tom Luna repealed Idaho’s controversial five-star accountability mechanism. Since then, Ybarra sought and received waivers from requirements of ESSA’s predecessor, the No Child Left Behind law.
This marks the second consecutive ESSA deadline that Ybarra’s SDE missed in three weeks. SDE had said it would release the first draft of its plan “sometime in October.” Instead, SDE released the 102-page draft plan Nov. 1, just hours before a forum intended to gather public feedback and reaction.
Even with the March deadline looming, aspects of the plan are unfinished. Details are still being developed relating to accountability, teacher quality indexes and student achievement, SDE officials said during a Nov. 9 meeting. Marcia Beckman, Idaho’s associate deputy superintendent over federal programs, said revisions and updates would continue, even after submission to the State Board.
ESSA deals with a number of topics, from testing and accountability to English language learners, students on individual education plans and federal funding.