IEA Hotline—March 13, 2020
Advanced Professional Educator Pay Bill Passes Senate Education Committee
HB 523, which would increase state allocations to districts by $223 million over the next five years to increase pay for veteran educators and bolster Idaho’s sub-standard teacher retention rates, passed the Senate Education Committee on a unanimous vote Thursday. It now goes to the Senate floor with a vote likely to take place Monday. HB 523 has already passed the House.
IEA member Stacy Westcott of Fruitland testified in support, telling the committee the bill “creates an opportunity to help teachers who want to stay in Idaho do just that”. Peggy Hoy of Twin Falls shared the challenges of teacher retention in the Magic Valley and talked about the value of veteran teachers from a mentoring and leadership perspective.
Prior to the vote, committee chair Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, called it “a good piece of legislation”, and noted that the onus now falls on administrators and district leaders to effectively manage the accountability measures. In her testimony, State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said the bill would “help level the playing field in rural districts”.
Master Educator Premiums Could Sunset Under New Bill
Tangentially related to HB 523 is the introduction of a bill that would establish “sunset” dates for the Master Educator Premium program. Under HB 624, the state would honor the three-year MEPs awarded last year and this year but would no longer take new applications following the current school year. The MEP program would sunset completely as of July 1, 2024.
Shared Accountability Bills Pass House Education Committee
A pair of bills sponsored by Sen. Dave Lent, R-Idaho Falls, that would create more accountability for district superintendents and local school boards passed the House Education Committee this week. Having already cleared the Senate, they now go to the House floor for action.
SB 1279 would provide clearer guidelines and more detail for the evaluations of district superintendents. Noting that some districts struggle with time constraints and lack the tools to adequately evaluate their superintendents, Lent says this bill would “simplify and focus” the process and help districts define success. “SB 1279 would also shift the focus away from teacher evaluations,” he said.
SB 1285 would prescribe training for local school board members within 180 days of their election. Lent noted that volunteer school board members are ultimately responsible for dissemination of $2.5 billion in taxpayer funds, or half of the state’s general fund. While many of them are well-prepared for that responsibility, this legislation is aimed at ensuring that all of them have the training to be good stewards of resources and have accountability for the education of students in their districts. SB 1285 passed the committee with Representatives Moon, Wisniewski, Mendive, and DeMordaunt voting against it.
Guns on Campus Voted Down in Committee
A very concerning bill that would have allowed school employees to carry firearms on school grounds with minimal notification requirements was voted down in the Senate State Affairs Committee by a 5-4 margin. IEA General Counsel Paul Stark testified against SB 1384, citing concerns over inadequate training, potential liability, and a lack of parental notification. The bill was also opposed by other education stakeholder groups and law enforcement agencies.
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