BOISE -- With Idaho in the midst of an education overhaul, lawmakers are taking the first month of the session to hear out concerns, ideas, and wish list from stakeholders.
On Monday afternoon, the House and Senate education committees held a joint listening session to take public comment on the Governor’s education task force recommendations.
The recommendations include 20 proposals that range from Common Core State Standards to giving high schoolers more opportunities to earn college credit, to changing the model for student advancement, to a mastery-based approach to achievment instead of how long a student is in school.
Because the 20 ideas will cost money to implement, the legislature has to look at everything to decide if and when to do this. Overall, the recommendations are estimated to cost around $350 million over five to six years.
At the joint committee meeting, the public was invited to sound off on any recommendations, with the exception of the controversial Common Core State Standards, which were hashed out last week in front of the committees with a panel discussion.
Only a few dozen people showed up for Monday’s meeting, and of those people, only a handful actually addressed the lawmakers on the topic of the Governor's Task Force recommendations. Joint School District No. 2 (Meridian) Superintendent and task force member Dr. Linda Clark said that shows support for most ideas.
"I think that the public comments from business, from parents, from everyone, have been quite positive. And generally folks don't come down to make positive comments. They come to express concerns. So I think this was kind of almost expected,” Clark said. "Aside from Common Core, I think there's tremendous support for what the task force recommendations were, and I think we're all cautiously optimistic that some of them can be put into place fairly quickly."
House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt (R-Eagle) said last week’s Common Core State Standards meeting likely addressed most public concerns, and like Clark, he also attributed low turnout to the acceptance of most recommendations.
"The fact that we had the school boards association, the IEA, as well as the principals and superintendents all on the same page, that's kind of landmark in lots of ways. And I think that's kind of reflective, thankfully, of where we are as a state,” DeMordaunt said. "That's kind of reflective of where we are as a state. We all see the road ahead of us pretty much the same. And it's important that we continue to work on that, but there's some great success around that."
The Idaho School Boards Association Executive Director, Karen Echeverria, was one of the handful presenting, asking lawmakers to keep moving on all the task force recommendations.
"We support the recommendations as a package. We know that transforming our system will require making significant changes. The list of 20 recommendations is not a menu from which to choose things we like and ignore others," Echeverria said.
While the task force didn’t specifically prioritize recommendations, many, including Clark are making it clear restoration of operational funding must come first. In some cases, it would mean so local taxpayers aren't carrying the burden.
"We have a lot of districts that have spent all their reserves, they have supplementals, they're just hanging by a thread. So the restoration of those funds is really necessary to keep them afloat,” Clark said.
“Our general fund balances will be spent down to almost 0.09 percent with the failure of the supplemental levy. It's critical for us that as times get better and you make decisions to help us out of the woods. Because we're still in them,” said Meridian School Board Member Mike Vuittonet.