Atrocious Local Certification Bill Passes House, Heads to Senate Education Committee

Atrocious Local Certification Bill Passes House, Heads to Senate Education Committee

The Idaho House passed HB 221, which allows local districts to “self-certify” teachers, by a 54-13 margin, spurning testimony from professional educators who voiced opposition. Rather than addressing the root causes of Idaho’s teacher shortage, the House has opted for yet another shortcut, this one alarmingly lacking in both accountability and common sense.

HB 221 would essentially allow districts to pull people off the street and into Idaho classrooms with the only requirements being that they are at least 18 years old and have a bachelor’s degree. The shortcomings of this bill seem blatantly obvious, but let’s reiterate some of them here for the record.

  • It would exacerbate the inequity between rural and urban students, with rural students potentially settling for a “warm body” while urban students have access to well-trained teachers.
  • Idaho is already failing to meet its constitutional obligation to provide a “uniform” public education. Forcing some students to put up with unqualified or under-qualified teachers is a clear violation.
  • Alternative certification pathways that include a requirement of progress toward full certification already exist. HB 221 does not open new doors for “retired accountant who wants to teach a business class” (which is specious posturing at best anyway).
  • Teachers “certified” under HB 221 would not be subject to a code of ethics from the Professional Standards Commission, would not have to meet a literacy requirement, and would have no training in classroom management, special education, or how to deal with difficult students.
  • It fails, again, to provide a real solution to Idaho’s teacher retention problem. The state is 51st in per-student funding, has underpaid and disrespected teachers for decades, and then fails to comprehend why teachers leave the state for better opportunities or leave the profession entirely.

This dangerous bill is likely to be heard next week in the Senate Education Committee. Contact members of the committee NOW and tell them to VOTE NO on HB 221. Better yet, sign up to testify and share your perspective on why this bill is bad for students and educators.

HB 174 Would Make Bargaining Optional for Districts, Passes House Education Committee

In another affront to professional educators, the House Education Committee passed HB 174, which would make bargaining with local education associations optional for school districts. Several committee members postured about “the great respect they have for teachers”, then voted in favor of an unnecessary bill that allows districts to disregard the voices and experience of teachers.

IEA General Counsel Paul Stark and several educators testified against the bill, which passed the committee by an 8-5 margin. “Teachers are on the front lines and in the trenches every single day,” Stark told the committee. “Negotiations allow those with the most intimate knowledge and experience to have a voice.”

Since the Luna Laws were overwhelmingly rejected by Idaho voters a decade ago, districts and local education associations have worked collaboratively to help students. HB 174 would compromise that collaboration and would do nothing to benefit students. Contact your legislator and tell them to vote NO on HB 174.

Also noteworthy from the hearing this week was the fact that House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, gave the Idaho Freedom Foundation standing as an education stakeholder group. This group has made it clear they want to undermine and dismantle public education in Idaho and have no business being afforded this kind of platform.

Private School Voucher Bill Gets Worse, Introduced by House Education Committee

As if the original, HB 215, wasn’t bad enough, the House Education Committee has now introduced a revised version, HB 294. The new version removes even more of the limited accountability language and makes this private school voucher bill even more problematic for Idaho public schools. This bill is expected to come up on the House floor next week.

In last week’s Hotline, we detailed the arguments against private school vouchers, which would divert money from Idaho public schools. Idaho is already dead last in per-student funding, and a voucher bill would make it even more difficult for districts to provide the “thorough and uniform” education mandated by the state constitution.

House Kills Bill to Accept Pre-K Grant Money in Controversial Vote

HB 226, which would enable Idaho to access $6.5 million in federal grant money for early childhood education, was narrowly defeated on the House floor. Some House members received blowback for their comments, especially Rep. Charlie Shepherd, R-Pollock, who said “any bill that makes it easier or more convenient for mothers to come out of the home and let others raise their child—I don’t think that’s a good direction for us to be going”. Those comments led to a protest on the Capitol steps. Once confronted with public outrage, Shepherd apologized for his deplorable comments. Read more in this story from KIVI-TV.

There is some level of optimism that this issue may be taken up again during this session, hopefully with a result that would help young Idaho children get a stronger educational foundation.

Stay up to date on the latest developments by following us on Facebook and Twitter (@IdahoEA).

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