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Sunday, January 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Rural school center pilot bill passes House after much debate

HB 628, legislation to spend $300,000 to launch state schools Superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s plan for rural schools centers next year by establishing a pilot center to serve North Idaho, drew extensive debate in the House this morning, before finally passing on a 44-26 vote, with 26 House Republicans voting no.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, urged support for the bill. “Forty-five other states do this; they have rural education centers. And this is not more bureaucracy, this is local control,” she told the House. “The cost for this, this pilot, is a mere $300,000. And that is to hire a director, administrative assistant and a fiscal agent to have a handle on this. The state of Washington, who has been doing these rural education centers since 1967, has offered to assist Idaho for free, which is remarkable.”

She said the centers would offer specialists that rural school districts couldn’t otherwise afford, which the districts could tap as needed.

Rep. Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, said she supports the concept, but opposed the bill because she’d like to see more work to allow the program to launch with service to more areas of the state. “I think that there are a few things we need to tighten up on this,” she said. “I would hope we can work on this for another year and come up with something that serves our state very well.”

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, asked, “Is there a problem that rural schools can’t be sharing information and resources now? Is there some problem there?” Boyle responded, “Rural districts try to share, but they do not have enough time. They need someone who can help them do things.”

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said, “There’s just a wide menu of types of personnel big districts have that we don’t have.” He said, “This is a very lean budget. This is being done the Idaho way, in my opinion, which is very judicious use of the resources that we have, very efficient.”  

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, noted that Idaho’s rural school districts already spend more per pupil than its larger districts.

Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, said, “I would urge you all to support this, and we’ll work on it as it’s going through.”

“Any time we have a new idea, there are always lots and lots of questions,” Boyle said in her closing debate. “That’s why we need a pilot, to work out all those kinds of questions.” The bill now moves to the Senate side.

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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