Members of the Senate Education Committee learned more about Idaho’s NCLB waiver on Monday. State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra told committee members that Idaho is one of 43 states that have such a waiver.
The superintendent provided more details about what currently exists in Idaho’s 200+ page waiver, which expires in June. Aside from including many of the pieces of the voter-rejected Students Come First (SCF) laws, Ybarra pointed out that the current waiver also includes the names of specific products, contracts and programs such as SchoolNet, TeachScape, WISE Tool, ISEE, and the Danielson Framework for teacher evaluations.
She pointed out that her department is currently in the process of rewriting the waiver, which must be submitted to the US Department of Education by March 31. Under her leadership, Ybarra told committee members that Idaho’s next waiver will take a more positive approach. Instead of focusing on monitoring, correcting, and punishing districts, the new waiver will be built on local autonomy and helping struggling schools by partnering them with effective schools.
The new waiver is expected to remove all SCF references, all explicit mention of programs, products and provider contracts. The five-star rating system is also expected to be replaced. Though she did not provide a draft of the new waiver, the Superintendent did tell committee members she envisions a system for Idaho schools and students that would include reducing testing significantly, removing some of the high stakes nature of the test used for federal measurement, and providing an opt out provision for parents.
2015 Legislative Session: What Is Still Left to Do?
Monday marks the 62nd day of this year’s legislative session. Even before lawmakers came to town, House and Senate leaders were predicting that the work would be quickly dispensed with and the session would end by March 27th.
When the plan to move HB222-the proposed career ladder teacher pay system-was derailed in the House Education Committee last week, the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) had to set aside plans for setting the FY 16 public schools budget.
Lawmakers have spent significant time managing the Idaho Education Network (IEN) debacle. Debates on topics such as reproductive rights, guns, civil rights protections, and gambling have all taken center stage at one time or another this session. Political reporter Bill Dentzer reports in a story published in Sunday’s edition of the Idaho Statesman that before they end this year’s session, lawmakers must address career ladders, may tackle transportation and probably won’t make any significant tax reform changes.
A new ending date has not been set, but all signs seem to be pointing toward an early April final adjournment date.
Far Fewer Education Bills in 2015
The issues are every bit as important this year, but the sheer volume of education-related bills introduced during the 2015 session is significantly less than in previous years. On average, lawmakers introduced 83 education-related bills over the past three years. That number is high compared to this year. Thus far, a total of 58 education bills have been introduced this session.
However, the issues in this session are just as significant as in the past. Lawmakers have spent a substantial amount of time and energy diving into the topics of career ladders, IEN, the Idaho Core Standards, parental rights, and legislation originating from the Governor’s Task Force recommendations.