The legislature has been at work for over a month, and the deadline for the introduction of bills is quickly approaching. After next Monday, only a handful of legislative committees will have the ability to print bills.
As typically happens at this time each legislative session, committees will be spending the next few days printing a flurry of bills in advance of the deadline. Such was the case today in the Senate Education Committee on Thursday. Four bills of particular interest to the IEA were printed. The three teacher labor law bills introduced during the 2013 legislative session are set to sunset on July 1 of this year. The purpose for putting a sunset on the bills was to force the collection of data to ascertain the effectiveness of the laws. Last fall the interim committee on education realized that more time was needed to gather data. As a result, the superintendents association, the school boards association and IEA all agreed to support a one-year extension of those three laws. These bills would do that.
The other bill, written by the IEA and sponsored by Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), would redefine how the state determines class size and require the State Department of Education (SDE) to gather and report that data each year. Why? As Sen. Ward-Engelking told committee members today, in many school districts across Idaho, budget cuts caused elimination of programs and teaching positions and increased class sizes. By requiring an accurate accounting of the actual number of students in each teacher’s classroom local parents and policy makers will be armed with important information they need to determine whether class size is an issue that needs to be addressed.