Idaho Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna and former state senator John Goedde, who has been contracted to work for Governor Otter to sort out the Idaho Education Network contract debacle, spent most of Thursday morning on the hot seat answering questions about IEN and funding.
Last legislative session lawmakers were caught off guard when Luna announced that the federal government had stopped sending Idaho e-rate dollars because of litigation over the IEN contract. Legislators plugged the funding hole last year and agreed to cover the cost of the system at least through January of this year. This morning Luna was back with an additional request, supported by Governor Otter, to fund IEN through the remainder of this fiscal year and to fully fund the system for FY 16.
In an Idaho Education News article, columnist Kevin Richert attempts to provide an overview of why Idaho classrooms are at risk of potentially losing access to broadband services through IEN—at least for the short term.
You can read a full account of today’s hearing at Idaho Education News.
Supt. Ybarra Talks Budget and Vision with Education Committees
Idaho’s new state superintendent celebrated her 30th day in office on Thursday sharing with members of the House and Senate Education Committees her K-12 budget request and her vision for Idaho’s K-12 schools. She introduced her remarks by highlighting the SDE’s new vision: Supporting Schools and Students to Achieve.
The superintendent focused her plan to lead the Department over the next four years, which includes the issues of:
- Retention and Recruitment. The superintendent told lawmakers that recruitment and retention is not driven solely by increasing teacher salaries. Though salaries are an important factor in ensuring teachers seek employment in our state and stay for their teaching career, mentoring and appropriate class sizes are also important elements in this equation. She briefly outlined the need to provide quality mentorship to new teachers and set statutory limits on K-3 classrooms to ensure that students can read at grade level by the end of third grade. She pointed out that reducing class sizes is on her “wish list” and that it is unlikely that any action will be taken on this issue before 2017.
- Operational Funding. The superintendent plans to shift a significant portion of previously restricted funding to districts with no restriction on how it is spent. A strong proponent of local control, Supt. Ybarra reminded lawmakers that local school districts know better what they need; the state should not be requiring districts to spend money in ways that do not create an environment that benefits students.
- Common Sense Technology. In what could be interpreted as a swipe at the previous administration’s attempt to ensure every student had a laptop, Supt. Ybarra told committee members that the state should not be mandating computing devices for students. She pointed out that her funding request does include technology funding, but she was careful to point out that districts will have complete autonomy regarding what technology expenditures to make.
- High Standards and Testing. Supt. Ybarra told lawmakers she strongly supports high standards for students and she acknowledged the value of testing while pointing out that the SBAC is not the only way to measure student growth. She told lawmakers that she is in the process of revising Idaho’s ESEA waiver and is developing a balanced assessment model that would not require every student in every grade to complete every section of the state-mandated test each year. She also announced that she is investigating the ramifications of developing an “op out” provision for the SBAC. However, she cautioned that any changes would not take effect until next year.
- Career Ladders. The superintendent told lawmakers that she is working to develop a career ladder plan that would be piloted over the next few years. She told lawmakers that piloting is important, as this approach is a form of risk management and ensures that by allowing districts to op in to the pilot, there will be limited disruption to the system.