This article originally appeared on the Idaho Education Association News Page on February 8, 2019

IEA President, Kari Overall testifying on the Funding Formula at the Joint Education Committee session.

Education stakeholder groups, including the IEA, and several individuals addressed a joint session of the education committees Thursday to share feedback and concerns about the proposed funding formula draft language.

In an unusual step, the committees agreed to solicit feedback on draft language prior to a bill being introduced. The committee chairs have admitted the proposed legislation is a work in progress.

IEA President Kari Overall and others urged them to slow down and make sure to get the funding formula change right rather than rushing it through. “A false sense of urgency has been created,” she told the committees.

Many of those testifying touched on the same prevailing concerns:

  • The “wealth adjustment” weighting is problematic. Critics pointed out this adjustment based on property values has no correlation to the affluence of students or schools and paints a very unrealistic picture of what resources schools and districts have access to.
  • Career Ladder/salary-based apportionment should not be folded into the new formula. Implemented four years ago, the Career Ladder has increased teacher compensation, especially for early career educators, and given local districts control over their budgets. As Overall told the committees, “the Career Ladder is no longer recognizable in the legislative draft.
  • The process of writing the draft legislation has been exclusionary and flawed. Rather than using the collaborative model that produced the Career Ladder, a small group came up with this language to suit specific agendas.
  • Multiple speakers asked to have the model extrapolated out over three to five years to better gauge the impact it will have on districts. There remains significant concern about what happens after the “hold harmless” period expires.

State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra also expressed concerns about the draft, including cash flow problems that would be created by the payment schedule and ongoing reliance on supplemental levies at the local district level.

The future of this legislation remains unclear at this point. Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, indicated he still expected a bill to be introduced in the next couple of weeks, but how the draft will be revised (and who will be doing it) is uncertain. The IEA has suggested a move to an enrollment-based system be implemented this year, with further work on the formula to be done collaboratively through the new task force proposed by Gov. Brad Little.

New Legislation Would Provide Public Funds to Alternative Certification Agencies

House Bill 93 was introduced in the House Education Committee this week. This legislation would allow state funds to be used to support alternative teacher preparation programs, such as Teach for America. Lobbyist Blake Youde told the committee that adding state funding to the mix would indicate Idaho is a “willing partner” in emphasizing alternative teacher preparation programs. While some committee members seemed open to the concept, others questioned the use of state funds for private programs. The bill was printed and now awaits a full hearing by the committee.

The IEA has significant concerns about this legislation. While acknowledging the role of alternative programs and certification play, and the contributions of educators who have taken this path, we believe they should be used on a limited, minimal, and targeted basis. Idaho needs long-term, robust solutions to our teacher recruitment and retention problems, not more shortcuts and band-aid fixes.

Charter Administrator Certification Bill Moves Forward

The Senate Education Committee voted to print legislation that would loosen certification requirements for charter school administrators. A similar bill was vetoed by then-Governor Butch Otter last year. The IEA vigorously opposed relaxing standards for administrator certification last year and expects to do the same in this session.

“Music in Our Schools Month” Legislations Advanced to House Floor

HCR 6, which would designate March as Music in Our Schools month, passed the House Education Committee this week and was sent to the House floor with a “do pass” recommendation. The bill is being carried by Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City, who is an IEA member and a music teacher. Fellow IEA members Erin Paradis (Vallivue EA) and Greg Felton (West Ada EA) also testified before the committee about the importance of music education. The bill now heads to the House floor.

L-R Erin Paradis, Kari Overall, Greg Felton, Rep. John McCrostie

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