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Eye On Boise

House, Senate Ed panels open rare summer meeting at Capitol

Idaho state Superintendent of Schools Sherri Ybarra addresses a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education committees at the state Capitol on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Idaho state Superintendent of Schools Sherri Ybarra addresses a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education committees at the state Capitol on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)

The Idaho House and Senate Education committees are holding a rare joint interim meeting today at the state Capitol; you can watch live online here. Topping the agenda is the state’s plan to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which Idaho faces a Sept. 18 deadline to submit to the federal government; it covers Idaho’s plans for school accountability and for spending $83 million in federal education funds.

“This is a little unusual that we meet as a joint committee,” Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, told the lawmakers as the meeting opened this morning in the Lincoln Auditorium. “But I think that it’s very important that we be here and give us, as a committee, the opportunity to keep up to date on some of these very, very important issues, the ESSA update being the most important.”

Just yesterday, according to Idaho Education News, the state Board of Education held a meeting with prominent education groups in Idaho after they complained in a letter the board and Gov. Butch Otter that they felt “disrespected” after being excluded from developing the state plan.

House Education Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, told the joint committee, “I just wanted to thank everyone for taking time out of their summer to come and help Sen. Mortimer and I look through this plan and be able to ask questions and make comments that you have about the plan. I’m glad the department was able to accommodate us on such short notice, and that they’re going to welcome our input, I’m sure. And I thank the board for helping out, too, in this effort.”

State schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra told the lawmakers, “We welcome your input. as Co-Chair VanOrden stated.” She said the plan reflects lots of public and stakeholder input. “This was not done in a vacuum,” Ybarra said. “This is a collaborative plan that’s taken quite a few months to put together. They have traveled over the state, my team, held several listening tours. … We’re pleased to have this opportunity, and want to send you a very heartfelt thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules.”

You can read EdNews’ article about the education group concerns and their letter online here; and their report on today’s meeting here.

Ybarra introduced her chief policy adviser, Duncan Robb, who is giving a lengthy report on the ESSA, Idaho’s state plan and its development, and both the history and details of the issue. Robb said the plan that’s being reviewed today is actually the sixth version that’s been publicly posted on the state department’s website, as it’s been updated due to input; some additional updates still are in the works, he said.

The ESSA discussion is scheduled to last until noon; this afternoon, the joint committee’s agenda includes updates on student testing; teacher evaluations; and career-technical education.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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