October 23, 2011 in Idaho

Post your thoughts on education reform

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Public comments on the State Board of Education’s proposed new online class graduation requirement – requiring every Idaho high school student to take two online courses to graduate – are being accepted through Wednesday.

The new rule was widely panned at a series of seven public hearings around the state, but the state board gave it initial approval anyway on Sept. 9; the public comment period precedes the board’s final vote Nov. 3. To submit comments, go to the state board’s website at boardofed.idaho.gov, and click on the box on the right that says, “Online Graduation Credit Requirement.”

Meanwhile, the state Department of Education also is taking comment on several other new rules related to the Students Come First school reform legislation that passed this year. The deadline for those comments also is Wednesday. They include rules requiring school district negotiations with teachers unions to be conducted in open meetings; and requiring parent input and student achievement growth to be included in teacher evaluations.

Comments on those rules and others can be submitted by going to www.sde.idaho.gov, and clicking on “Comment on Legislative Rules.”

The entire Students Come First reform plan will go before voters in a referendum in November 2012, but the state is starting it up in the meantime.

Dems ‘less negative’

Idaho Democrats marked something of a milestone last week with the emergence of a new candidate in the 1st Congressional District, former NFL player and Lewiston native Jimmy Farris. Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Larry Grant said, “Jimmy has a great story – I mean, he walked on to the NFL, for crying out loud. You don’t do that. … He’s taken on the challenges. He’s got the determination.”

Grant said he’s been talking with potential legislative and congressional candidates since he took the party post in February. “I would say, in terms of serious folks that I thought could mount a serious race, I’ve had probably three of them turn me down,” he said. “There are two others or so that I’m still talking to but they’re not stepping up. With Jimmy on board now in the 1st District, I’ll focus my attention on the 2nd District. … I really don’t expect to see him have a primary.” He added, “Guys like Jimmy, they’re a breath of fresh air. And the Democratic Party’s starting to move a little bit. I’m not saying that we’re optimistic, but we’re certainly a lot less negative than we were six months ago.”

Bujak faces bar complaint

Beleaguered and bankrupt former Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak is the target of a complaint filed Friday by the Idaho State Bar for professional misconduct including embezzlement and fraud.

It seeks to suspend him from the practice of law and order him to pay restitution for two cases. In one case, he allegedly embezzled more than a year’s worth of monthly payments in a property dispute in which he was representing a buyer. In the other, he allegedly persuaded an elderly client to sign over all her assets, including her home and vehicle, to an irrevocable trust benefiting himself and his assistant. Several years later, after the woman contacted another lawyer and said she’d been misled, Bujak agreed in court to relinquish his claims against her estate.

Bujak has 21 days to answer the bar complaint.

Simpson praises redistricters

Idaho congressman Mike Simpson, who represents the 2nd Congressional District, was asked last week about what he thinks of Idaho’s new congressional districts, which just took effect. “Love it,” he said quickly to laughter.

He added, “We didn’t really participate in that,” and recounted how when he was Idaho House speaker and the late Jerry Twiggs was Senate president pro-tem, both had been through the 1990 reapportionment. “It was ugly, and there were 105 legislators trying to protect themselves,” he said. “We decided … we were going to put together a commission like some other states had done, because we were going to take the politics out of reapportionment.” Amid laughter, he said, “You can’t take the politics out of reapportionment.

“Nevertheless, I think the second commission did a great job, and I hope it’s a model that’ll be used by commissions in the future,” Simpson said, “to sit down, don’t care where people live, don’t care if you run incumbents against incumbents. Reapportion it so that it makes sense, which is what I think they did.”

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