Certification Shortcuts, Private School Vouchers Headline Troubling Legislation

House Education Committee Takes Another Shortcut, Fails to Address Causes of Teacher Shortage

The most disturbing alternative certification bill yet, HB 221, passed the House Education Committee on a party-line vote of 12-3. This bill would allow school districts to bypass state certification and “self-certify” anyone meeting these minimal qualification thresholds

  • Be 18 years old
  • Have a bachelor’s degree
  • Pass a background check
  • Not have a communicable disease

That’s it. Those are the only qualifications needed for someone to be hired to teach Idaho students under HB 221. No formal training, no education experience, no post-secondary degree, no instruction on classroom management or how to deal with troubled students. And no provision that they are making progress toward official certification.

“A highly qualified teacher is the single most important factor in student success,” says IEA President Layne McInelly in a statement released today. “Lowering the bar—again—makes the dynamic haphazard and threatens student achievement. Idaho students, parents, and professional educators deserve better.” McInelly and several IEA members testified against the bill during the committee hearing.

Two statewide task forces and a Teacher Pipeline Workgroup, all featuring a cross-section of education stakeholders, have made recommendations on how to address Idaho’s teacher shortage. Most of those recommendations have languished while the legislature instead opts for shortcuts and a disrespectful “anyone can teach” approach. Idaho already has a teacher retention percentage below the national average and more educators are considering leaving the profession. HB 221 will not do anything to address that problem. Tell your representative to vote NO when HB 221 comes to the House floor next week.

Private School Voucher Bill Also Going to the House Floor

The House Education Committee also advanced HB 215, a private school voucher bill, to the full House this week. This bill would divert desperately needed resources from public schools to private and parochial schools. It uses the terms “grants” and “scholarships” but it is still a voucher bill that would almost assuredly be utilized in mostly urban areas and by the most affluent families. Contact your legislator and tell them you oppose HB 215, and they should vote NO on this elitist bill and instead support funding great public schools for all of Idaho students.

IEA General Counsel Paul Stark testified against this dangerous legislation, pointing out several of the flaws and fallacies of private school vouchers.

  •  Unlike public schools, private schools do not service all students. They can largely pick and choose what students they want to serve
  •  Shockingly, students needing special educations services need to waive their rights under federal law to qualify for a voucher.
  •  Private schools exist almost exclusively in Idaho’s urban areas. Rural students and communities will pay the price for private school students in the cities.
  •  Nothing in HB 215 prevents a student attending a private school from being compelled to profess a specific ideological belief, to pray a certain way, or to worship in a particular manner.

Read more about this controversial legislation from Sally Krutzig in the Post Register.

Legislators Still Eyeing Tax Cuts Over Public School Investment for Budget Surplus

While HB 199 was pulled back this week, you can expect it, or something similar, to surface during this session. Idaho is sitting on a budget surplus of some $600 million, which could be put to very good use in our public schools for a state that is last in per-student funding. But many legislators are leaning toward tax cuts, private school vouchers (see story on HB 215 above), or pet projects instead.

Read our story on HB 199 in last week’s Hotline and tell your legislator you want the budget surplus used for students and schools, not tax cuts for the wealthy.

Ybarra’s Bill to Mandate In-Person Instruction Passes House Education Committee

The House Education Committee also gave the green light to HB 175, which would require school districts to offer in-person instruction, even during times of emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee overlooked both conceptual and practical problems with the bill and advanced it to the House Floor on a 10-5 vote. Read more in this story from Idaho Education News. And once again, contact your representative and tell them to vote NO on unnecessary legislation, in this case, HB 175.

HB 174 Moves Forward

A bill that would revive unwanted tenets of the ill-fated Luna Laws has been introduced in the House Education Committee and will be up for a full hearing before the committee Wednesday. We detailed IEA opposition to this bill that would compromise collective bargaining and erode the voices of professional educators in last week’s Hotline.

Contact your representative and tell them to vote NO on HB 174.

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

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