Today’s big headline was the resignation of state Sen. John McGee (R-Caldwell) over allegations from a Senate attaché of sexual harassment. Senate GOP leaders Brent Hill, Bart Davis, and Chuck Winder announced the news in a late-afternoon news conference at the Statehouse. Earlier this year, McGee was arrested for driving under the influence and stealing an SUV. He was in his 4th term and served as Republican Senate caucus chairman.
The day’s big education news was the 12-5 decision by the House Education Committee to pass H481, a bill to lift the current caps of six charter schools per year and no more than one per district. The vote came despite opposition to the bill from three major education groups.
Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr said that although the IEA supports charter schools and helped write the Idaho charter school law, we oppose this bill. “Charter schools do take resources away from neighborhood schools that most of our children attend,” she said. “With resources still so scarce, now is not the time to divert more resources away from those schools.” She added that the IEA wants to see existing charter schools share more of their innovations with traditional schools.
Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association, also testified against the bill and asked the committee to hold it, noting that existing charter school law needs a thorough review. Rob Winslow of the Idaho Association of School Administrators said that while his group did not oppose lifting the overall cap, removing the one-per-district-per-year limit could put districts at financial risk. Rep. Sue Chew (D-Boise) offered a substitute motion to remove the overall cap but keep the district cap in place, but her motion was defeated 4-13. The bill now goes to the full House.
Looking ahead to Thursday, the House Education Committee (meeting at 8:30 in Room EW41) will hear H564, the new bill regarding employee records and Professional Standards Commission investigations. While Rep. JoAn Wood (R-Rigby) has made some changes to the bill the IEA opposed earlier this session, we believe the new version will continue to deter highly qualified teachers from wanting to work in Idaho.
Also Thursday, the Senate Education Committee (meeting at 3 p.m. in Room WW55) will hear H426, the “8-in-6” bill from Rep. Steve Thayn (R-Emmett). The bill aims to help junior- and senior-high students earn college credits, but it’s unclear how it would be funded.