The members of the House Education Committee unanimously endorsed SB 1279, sponsored by Sen. Bob Nonini (R-Post Falls), which would create a mechanism for industry to partner with the state to fund STEM education in Idaho. Under Nonini’s proposal, a STEM Education Fund would be created and frontloaded with $10 million in state funding. Then, the STEM Action Center would be tasked with identifying industry partners to donate to the Fund. The Fund could be used to provide educators with professional development and STEM grants to expand computer science in Idaho classrooms.
IEA Board of Directors member Sonia Galaviz (Boise Education Association) led off testimony in favor of SB 1279 telling members that she is “an evangelist for public education.” She pointed out that many students are financially disadvantaged and through grants such as those provided by the STEM Action Center, she and her colleagues can tap into funds to level the playing field for their students and “literally change the trajectory” of students’ lives.
The bill now makes its way to the full House of Representatives for consideration. If approved and signed by the Governor, JFAC will need to determine how much funding, if any, of the $10 million requested in the bill’s fiscal note.
House Panel Approves “Idaho Innovation Schools Act”
Over objections by the Idaho Education Association and after questions by the Idaho School Boards Association, members of the House Education Committee approved HB 570.
HB 570, sponsored by Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) would allow for up to 10 schools and/or charter schools, upon approval of the local school board or board of directors, to be exempted from Idaho Codes applicable to a school board or school district, rules or guidelines adopted by the SBE, and local district policies, including terms and conditions of employment in the name of innovation.
IEA Director of Public Policy Matt Compton urged committee members to reject the proposal and instead task the SBE with bringing together an interim task force to undertake the process of evaluating existing education laws and administrative rules. Under that scenario, the committee would then work with the Legislature to remove those which impede local autonomy, flexibility to adapt to local circumstances, and the ability of the schools to be agile, adaptive, innovative and drive continuous improvement.
Compton also pointed out the successes of this process over the past few years. He concluded his remarks by telling committee members, “Encouraging all stakeholders to work collectively to draft a piece of legislation that eliminates doubt, concern and confusion will go a long way toward fostering real innovation.”
Compton’s recommendation was rejected and the bill was approved on a party line vote. HB 570 now moves to the full House for their consideration.
Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy Issues Report on Education Funding
Among the key takeaways from a report on education funding trends issued by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy were findings that show:
- The number of Idaho districts utilizing supplemental levies continues to rise.
- The reliance on local levies relative to state funding continues to grow.
- Federal funding for public education continues to decrease in the post-recession era.
- Idaho general fund revenue remains below 2007 levels when adjusted for inflation.