SCIENCE STANDARDS: Idaho lawmakers will have another look at the science standards they rejected during their 2016 session. At that time two issues were rumored to be at fault: climate change and evolution. Currently, schools are operating under a temporary rule (rather than the old 2001 standards) approved by Governor Butch Otter set to expire by the end of this legislative session. The “temporary” standards were rewritten by an SDE committee after public input was gathered following the defeat in the 2016 session. While the current standards as revised do not differ in content from those previously defeated, the methods and approaches to teaching that content are different. They will need to be approved.
PRE-K: Idaho has nothing in its rules or statutes compelling districts to offer pre-kindergarten education or even kindergarten for that matter. However, most districts do include kindergarten; and many use their own funding or obtain federal funding for pre-K. In his education agenda, the governor did not mention pre-K at all so now the Boise Chamber of Commerce has undertaken an initiative to fund 3-4 year olds in such a program. “More Idaho children need to be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten,” said the chamber in a recent press release. According to Education Week, Idaho has the lowest percentage of eligible children enrolled in preschool. House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding said he faults Governor Otter for “failing to address early childhood education in any meaningful way.”
In 2016 the legislature approved a $9.1 million literacy initiative to help struggling readers. Though helpful, to some educators this seemed the cart before the horse. Funding pre-K is a better step.
STATE SUPERINTENDENT: School Chief Sherri Ybarra has pledged to work closely with lawmakers to strengthen communication and build relationships. Since the recent controversy concerning teacher evaluations, Ybarra has taken much criticism from lawmakers as well as the State Board of Education (SBOE). In fact, the SBOE has removed Ybarra and the SDE from future audits of the state evaluation system. In December it was discovered that she had contracted with McREL International, an independent education research group that found 99 percent of Idaho evaluations were completed incorrectly and she received the data in July but withheld it. The SBOE will be conducting another audit this February.
REVENUE FORECAST: Governor Otter recommended a 6.4 increase in the K-12 budget, including $58 million in new money for teacher salaries and raises for other school employees. Another $15 million is designated to cover rising health insurance. These projections will leave Idaho with a large surplus, and many lawmakers will argue whether to put those funds into educational programs or provide tax cuts.
Corbin, Clark. “Lawmakers Prepare Look at New Science Standards.” 12 Jan. 2017. idahoednews.org.
“Ybarra Pledges to Work Closely with Legislature.” 11 Jan. 2017.
“Idaho Earns a D-Plus on State Report Card.” edweek.org.
Richert, Kevin. “Boise Chamber Wants Legislature to Review Pre-K Issue. 11 Jan. 2017. idahoednews.org.
“Lawmakers Line Up Behind Otter’s Revenue Numbers.” 12 Jan. 2017.