The 2022 Idaho legislative session is heating up as lawmakers introduce a slew of education-related bills. Here’s a rundown of the latest that is being debated:
IEA: Rural Educator Incentive Bill a “Step in the Right Direction”
Educators in rural areas or high-need areas could get a little extra money to pay for educational costs like student loans or pursuing advanced degrees under legislation introduced by Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), an IEA member, on Wednesday.
In testimony to the Senate Education Committee during the debut of Senate Bill 1290 in the Senate Education Committee, Idaho Education Association Political Director Chris Parri told lawmakers that the bill would help “to keep and attract highly qualified educators to our rural communities.”
Under the bill, eligible educators could receive money to pay off student loans, receive a master’s degree, or get a teaching endorsement in a new subject area. Incentives would max out at $1,500 the first year, and $4,500 in year four.
The IEA was one of several education stakeholder groups to endorse the bill. Only one group, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, spoke against it.
“We believe that this proposal puts another tool in the toolbox for districts to incentivize educators to serve rural districts,” the IEA’s Parri said. “Along with better pay and better insurance, both of which we are confident the legislature will give educators this year, Senate Bill 1290 helps Idaho address our chronic educator shortage in an incredibly positive, forward-thinking way.”
The Senate Education Committee endorsed sending the legislation to the full Senate with one committee member, Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) voting against it. Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville) voted to allow the full Senate to consider the legislation but said he may vote against the bill on the Senate floor. The Senate could vote on the bill in the next few days.
Charter School Teacher Certification Bill Endorsed by Senate Education Committee
Legislation allowing charter schools to hire anyone with a bachelor’s degree as a teacher was endorsed by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 1291, sponsored by Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville), also gives charter schools the option of creating a school-specific charter educator certificate that could be honored by another charter school.
The legislation was endorsed, with minor technical amendments, by the Senate Education Committee in a 6-2 vote on Tuesday. Sens. Janie Ward-Engelking (D-Boise) and David Nelson (D-Moscow) voted against the measure. After being amended, it will likely go to the full Senate for consideration.
IEA Executive Director Paul Stark testified against the legislation calling it “an insult to the professionalism of Idaho’s certified educators.”
House Votes to Ban ‘Repeat’ Bond Votes
House members overwhelmingly approved legislation Thursday denying Idaho taxing districts, including school districts, the ability to ask voters to approve a bond measure more than once in 11 months.
House Bill 512 requires school districts, which rely heavily on bonds to pay for new facilities because of underfunding by state lawmakers, to wait a year to ask voters again if a bond measure fails to get the required two-thirds supermajority voter support. The House approved the bill on a 43-26 vote. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.
Sponsored by Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) and Sen. Lori Den Hartog (R-Meridian) the bill’s critics claim it intentionally targets schools because of their heavy reliance on bond measures to fund facilities needs.
“What if we have an old building, a dilapidated one, or we need to build one because of growth?” asked Rep. Sally Toone (D-Gooding), a career educator and IEA member. She cited a recent report pointing to Idaho’s deteriorating school buildings. “Bonds are the only tool that we have to solve that problem.”
Resolution Condemns Divisive Curriculum
Sen. Carl Crabtree (R-Grangeville) introduced a non-binding resolution condemning divisive curriculum that was endorsed today by the Senate Education Committee.
The measure – Senate Concurrent Resolution 118 – says “theories taught under ‘critical race theory’ and writings in ‘The 1619 Project’ attempt to re-educate children into the belief that they are to be ashamed of or limited by their race and ethnicity.” The resolution encourages Idaho schools “to teach a full and accurate history of the United States along with the principles of freedom and individual liberty.”
Its next stop will be a vote in the full Senate.
House passes ‘self-directed learner’ bill
A bill establishing a “self-directed learner” designation cleared its last legislative hurdle as the House passed it unanimously.
Authored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Thayne (R-Emmett), Senate Bill 1238 allows academically motivated K-12 students to earn the label from their teachers, giving them greater flexibility to learn in and outside the classroom.
With Gov. Brad Little’s signature, the bill will become law. It would take effect July 1.