An overflow crowd, including a strong contingent of IEA members, was on hand Friday as the House Education Committee began discussion and testimony on HB 590. Because there were so many people wanting to testify, the bill was held until Wednesday, Feb. 28, when testimony will resume.
As we have shared in previous editions of the Hotline, the Idaho Education Association has serious concerns with this legislation, which could further dilute the resources available to our already under-funded public schools. Click here to read more about why private school vouchers are harmful to public schools and how to join us in opposing HB 590.
The IEA, Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators and several other concerned groups and individuals plan to testify against this legislation. The three major education stakeholder groups issued a joint statement opposing private school vouchers, which would divert funding from public schools to private and religious schools through third-party scholarships.
Several good questions were raised by committee members during the bill presentation and ensuing testimony. Among them were:
- If the mechanism is already in place for private school scholarships, why is legislative action and/or state oversight necessary? From Rep. Paul Amdador, R-Coeur d’Alene.
- Would private schools be required to provide transportation, as public schools are? From Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth.
- Would HB 590 be in violation of Idaho’s Human Rights Act because of potential discrimination based on gender, religion, or sexual orientation? From Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City.
- Why would students attending non-public schools under this bill not be required to take mandated assessments to ensure accountability? From Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls.
The IEA encourages everyone to continue putting this troubling bill under the microscope with relevant questions. Contact members of the House Education Committee to express your concerns and opinions regarding HB 590. Stay tuned to the Hotline, the IEA Facebook page, and the IEA Twitter feed (@IdahoEdAssoc) for new developments and updated information.
Bill to Limit Bond and Levy Elections Killed
HB 487, which would have required districts to wait a full year before re-running bond and levy ballot proposals, was sent back to committee by the House. Two amendments were proposed to the bill, sponsored by Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, but both amendments failed. That prompted Scott to pull the bill from the floor, which makes it highly unlikely to return during this session. Opponents of the bill cited an overreach on the part of the state government into matters best handled at the local level.
Remote Testimony on Tap for Monday
For the first time, the House Education Committee will accept remote testimony via teleconference during their 9:00 a.m. session Monday morning. Those wishing to participate must sign up 24 hours in advance and be available at one of six remote sites around the state. A list of those sites and more information on how to sign up, can be found on the Idaho legislative website.
The three bills available for remote testimony Monday concern gun safety courses in public schools, additions of classified staff to the Career Ladder, and the hiring of spouses of school board members by local school districts. The possibility of remote testimony for Wednesday’s hearing on the private school voucher bill was raised during Monday’s meeting, but no commitment was made to that suggestion.