The 2018 Idaho legislative session came with twists and turns, but when all was said and done, lawmakers continued with their commitment to increasing compensation for professional educators and made strides on discretionary funding to local school districts. They also tackled several important policy issues, including approving Idaho’s first updated science standards since 2001, green-lighting a suicide prevention bill, and spiking a controversial private school voucher bill.
Increased Investment in Public Education via Career Ladder, Discretionary Funding
The Career Ladder salary allocation plan heads into the fourth year of a five-year window this fall, and the legislature approved $41.7 million for 2018-19 with very little opposition. Keep in mind that the Career Ladder is used to allocate funding to local districts, but each district negotiates compensation and other issues with local education associations. The Career Ladder was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Task Force on Improving Education, which set a five-year horizon for the plan. There have been no concrete proposals unveiled for teacher compensation beyond the 2019-2020 school year.
The legislature also approved $15.9 million in additional discretionary (sometimes called operational) funding. This figure includes $7.2 million to help local districts offset the rising cost of health care insurance for employees. Much like a year ago, the discretionary funding approach gives local districts flexibility to distribute funds based on their particular needs.
Key Policy Issues Addressed During the Session
- Private School Voucher Bill. The IEA spearheaded a coalition that defeated HB 590, a bill that would have allowed public funds to be diverted to private schools. Read more about the successful opposition to HB 590 in our IEA REPORTER cover story.
- Charter School Administrators. The IEA opposed HB 566, which would have allowed charter schools to bypass the current education experience requirements when hiring administrators. This bill passed the legislature, but was vetoed by the governor.
- Science Standards. Idaho adopted revised science standards, including references to climate change, when the Senate Education Committee voted to approve the standards in their entirety. Read more about the IEA members who helped develop the new standards.
- Suicide Prevention. The legislature overwhelmingly approved HB 634, which was also supported by the IEA. This bill encourages the training of all school employees in suicide awareness and prevention techniques and strategies.
Looking to the Future
While the 2018 session has concluded, there is still a great deal of work to be done over the summer and leading up to the next legislative session. The IEA is ever-vigilant when it comes to advocating for members, students, and public education. We will be urging member engagement and involvement relating to the following issues in the coming months:
- School Funding Formula Committee. The research phase of the committee’s work has been completed. Statewide focus groups and community meetings will be held in June and July that will have a direct impact on the decisions this committee makes from August to December. These decisions will affect every public school and classroom in the state.
- Teacher Shortage. The State Board of Education and the State Department of Education have issued separate reports addressing the causes of Idaho’s teacher shortage, but neither report was presented to the education committees during the session. The State Board’s Teacher Pipeline Workgroup, which included IEA representation, also released recommendations on potential solutions, but no action has been taken or is even in the planning stages to move forward on those recommendations.
- School Safety. Superintendent Ybarra is seeking input on her proposal that would, among other things, mandate additional certification requirements for teachers. The IEA believes that providing a safe school environment needs to be a collaborative effort involving teachers, administrators, school boards, law enforcement, legislators, parents, and communities.
- A third of the legislature will turn over this year, so make plans to vote in the primaries in May and the general election in November. Races for Governor and State Superintendent are also critical, and don’t underestimate the importance of local elections, especially for school board seats.
For more information on the 2018 legislative session, listen to our IEA REPORTER podcast, as IEA President Kari Overall discusses the important takeaways and takes a look ahead at policy issues on the horizon.