State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra has been pushing the concept of a rural schools network for the last two years. Her vision came one step closer to reality Tuesday when the House Education Committee introduced a bill that would enact what is now being called a rural education support network. Funding in the amount of $300,000 would come from the State Department of Education budget rather than the public budget. The House Education Committee is expected to hold a full hearing on the bill later this week.
Rather than the multiple rural schools centers Ybarra originally envisioned, the new bill would set up one rural education support network for the entire state. The goal of the project is to allow collaboration and sharing of resources between rural districts. If the support network proves to be successful, the idea of rural school centers in various locations around the state could still be implemented. Read more about the rural education support network bill from Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News.
Election Bill Sent to House Floor for Amendments
A bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Monks (R-Nampa) that would limit the use of public resources in local elections has been sent to the House Floor for possible amendments. HB 189, known as the “Government Non-Interference Act”, would restrict how local governments use public funds, property, and resources from informing constituents on important ballot issues. Monks cited recent bond and levy elections, indicating public school districts and community colleges misappropriated public dollars by distributing materials to influence positive outcomes in elections. If this legislation is successful, local districts trying to pass bonds or levies would face severe restrictions on what information they provide to their constituents. The Idaho School Boards Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the ACLU, and several bond attorneys opposed the bill, and even Rep. Monks recognized there were several issues with the bill as proposed. It is unclear what amendments may be made to the legislation to make it palatable to legislators and special interests alike. The House could act on this legislation as early as tomorrow.
JFAC Sets Higher Education Budget
On the heels of their work setting the K-12 budget, Idaho’s Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee crafted the Higher Education Budget Tuesday. In a unanimous 19-0 vote, JFAC approved a total budget of $563.3 million for the state’s colleges and universities. $287.1 million came from general funds, with a 2.7% increase. Read more from Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review.