The 2012 Idaho Legislature is in its final weeks, although it now appears the March 23 Sine Die date a week from today was a tad optimistic. Those in the know now say the session will end sometime during the week of March 26.
The session’s final days will include some finagling on whether to backfill the salary based apportionment funds that are being raided to fund the education reforms passed last year. Early in the week, House Education Chair Bob Nonini (R-Coeur d’Alene) put up a bill (H656) that would limit the backfilling to next year. It looked to be a substitute for S1331 from Sen. Dean Cameron (R-Rupert), which would keep the salary pool full in future years. Nonini yesterday told The Spokesman-Review that he believes a compromise is possible, possibly as part of a “going-home package” of bills. Stay tuned on that.
This week saw robust debate on H646, which would have brought greater oversight into the fast-growing phenomenon of Education Management Organizations in our public schools. The House Education Committee ultimately killed the bill, but not before supporters led by bill sponsor Rep. Brian Cronin (D-Boise) made many strong points about how for-profit education corporations lack the transparency and accountability that Idaho’s public schools must show. The bill’s defeat is a win for supporters of Propositions 1, 2, and 3 on the November 2012 ballot, since it showed that Idaho lawmakers have little interest in safeguarding Idaho taxpayer dollars when it comes to slowing the privatization of the state’s public schools.
This was a good week for charter schools, as H481, the bill to lift the existing caps of six new charters per year and one new charter per district, passed the Senate despite opposition from several education stakeholder groups and even a letter from former Meridian Superintendent Christine Donnell, who urged lawmakers to strengthen K-12 funding before lifting the caps. Gov. Butch Otter is expected to sign the bill. This week also saw the House Education Committee print and pass H663, which would allow charter school boards to circumvent the usual levy vote route to tap into the bond levy equalization fund that backs a small part of voter-approved building bonds for school districts.
In other education news this week:
The Senate Resources and Conservation Committee convened Friday afternoon to officially vote to hold in committee H495, the bill that would have shortened timelines for the acquisition and disposal of land and limited the Land Board’s ability to diversify investments and maximize returns through the acquisition of business entities. Only the committee chairman and co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Monty Pearce (R-New Plymouth), opposed the motion.
The Senate passed S1358a, the anti-bullying bill. It now goes to the House.
2012 Idaho Teacher of the Year Erin Lenz, an IEA member, spoke before both education committees on why early intervention for struggling readers is so critical to later student success.
Idaho voters delivered mixed results on school levy requests, with many passing but some falling short.
The Senate passed the resolution congratulating the Idaho Education Association on its 120th anniversary.
The House passed H603, which restores some funding protection that school districts lost in the 2011 reforms. Under the bill, districts would collectively self-insure to protect themselves from steep funding drops due to enrollment declines from one year to the next.
The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee decided to study teacher recruiting and retention in light of the recent report showing Idaho teachers leaving the profession in record numbers.