Governor Vetoes Bible Bill
Governor Butch Otter vetoed a controversial bill to allow the Bible to be used in schools even after a language change by the Senate State Affairs Committee to include “other religious texts.” The Attorney General’s opinion had earlier pointed out the potential legal liability for enacting this bill. In his veto message, Gov. Otter quoted the same wording from the AG’s opinion. The Idaho Constitution bans the use of “books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character” in public schools. Otter further stated that allowing this bill “to become law is in direct contravention to the Idaho Constitution, and it could result in a loss of funding and costly litigation for Idaho public schools.”
Governor Signs Literacy Bills
A pair of literacy bills close to the heart of Governor Butch Otter were enacted into law on March 23, and will go into effect July 1, 2016. Early in the legislative session Gov. Otter made clear his priorities, one of which was his literacy initiative. “The ability to read is the foundation on which all other learning depends,” said Otter.
School districts will now need to provide 30-60 hours of extra help for K-3 students not reading at grade level and create strong collaboration between teachers and parents to support student success. Some 37,000 kindergarten through third grade students are reading below grade level according to the Idaho Reading Indicator.
The second literacy bill developed by the State Board of Education deals with financing this effort, how state funding for reading intervention will be distributed, but the bill also requires that districts notify parents if their children are reading below grade level. The Governor’s Task Force for Improving Education after a two-year process recommended $10.7 be given to public schools and charters for proven research-based intervention programs and methods to increase literacy in K-3 students; however, this amount was reduced to $9.1 million by legislative budget writers.
Brown, Nathan. “Otter Vetoes ‘Bible in Schools’….” Times News . Twin Falls, Idaho.5 Apr 2016,
Otter Signs Reading Literacy Bills.” News Release. 23 March 2016.
Richert, Kevin. “Otter Signs Literacy Bills, Downplays Funding Gap.” Idaho Education News. 23 March 2016. www.idahoednews.org.