IEA Hotline—March 19, 2021
Dangerous Bills Held in Committee, Legislature to Recess Due to COVID Cases
With at least six confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their ranks, the legislature announced today that they will recess until April 6. Read more about the COVID-19 outbreak and the decision to recess from Idaho Education News. The week leading up to the unexpected announcement was a busy one. Here are some of the highlights.
“Local Certification” Bill Defeated
A bill that would have allowed districts to “self certify” anyone 18 years old with a bachelor’s degree was held by the Senate Education Committee on a 6-3 vote. IEA members rose to the occasion on behalf of their profession and their students, testifying remotely during the hearing and contacting committee members with cogent explanations about why the bill was potentially damaging.
The bill’s sponsors made a pitch to send HB 221 to the 14th order for amendments, but their disorganized arguments made it clear the legislation was unwarranted and unnecessary. As multiple Senators pointed out, Idaho already has pathways to alternative certification and HB 221 would not have addressed the bigger picture issues the state has with teacher retention.
“We are glad to have this distracting legislation behind us,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “It is time for our elected officials to find real, long-term solutions to the root causes of Idaho’s teacher shortage—low compensation, unsatisfactory working conditions, and disrespect for the profession. Shortcuts and Band-aids do a disserve to Idaho’s students and dedicated professional educators.”
“Optional Bargaining” Bill Also Defeated in Senate Education Committee
HB 174, which would have made collective bargaining with local education associations optional for school districts, was held in the Senate Education Committee. In a 6-2 vote with Sen. Kevin Cook, R-Idaho Falls, and Sen. Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian dissenting, the committee stopped this dangerous legislation. Several IEA members testified against the bill, as did IEA General Counsel Paul Stark.
“This was unnecessary legislation that would have stifled the voices of educators and reduced vital collaboration between district officials and educators,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “We are glad to see common sense prevail in the Senate Education Committee.”
Massive Tax Cut Bill Passes the House
Missing out on a golden opportunity to make a substantial investment in Idaho public schools, the House approved a bill that would slash tax revenues by nearly $390 million in year one and more than $160 million per year after that. On a 58-12 party-line vote, the chamber opted for the tax cuts in HB 332 instead of addressing Idaho’s last-place standing in per-student funding.
“It is very disappointing to see that priorities of the House are tax cuts for the wealthy and not helping Idaho’s working families and public schools,” says IEA President Layne McInelly. “Creating the Schools Our Students Deserve and making sure that every child has access and opportunity are things we should all be able to agree on.”
The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy did a detailed analysis of how HB 332 would disproportionally benefit the most affluent of Idahoans and provide very little relief for those who need it most.
Private School Voucher Bill Sent Out for Amendments
The latest iteration of a private school voucher bill was sent to the 14th order for possible amendments during a hearing of the Senate Education Committee this week. HB 294 was originally in two parts—part one was a grant plan that potentially could piggyback on Gov. Little’s Strong Families, Strong Students program, and part two was a scholarship/education savings account plan that would have essentially created private school vouchers.
The bill’s sponsors requested that the controversial scholarship portion be removed by amendment but hope to resurrect the grant portion. The 14th order process allows for any Senator to propose any amendment, so the future of the bill is uncertain.
The IEA released this statement following the committee hearing. “The private school voucher bill is being amended to remove the egregious “scholarship” portion, which is progress. The “grant” portion of the bill has some promise but would still allow public funds to be used for tuition and fees at private and religious schools. That loophole must be closed before we can support HB 294.”
Bill to Punish Schools for Prioritizing Safety is Voted Down
Legislation that would have withheld funding from schools that did not offer at least four days of in-person instruction was killed by the Senate Education Committee. The IEA, the Idaho School Boards Association, and the Idaho Association of School Administrators were aligned in opposition to the bill, which targeted schools and districts that have prioritized the health of students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more in this story from Idaho Education News.
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