State Superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s rural schools bill, HB 223, has narrowly passed the House on a 37-33 vote. The measure calls for a three-year pilot project, at $300,000 a year, in which schools in North Idaho would join together in a rural schools network aimed at collaborating and sharing resources.
Rep. Paul Amador, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I think this is actually something that will save us money in the long run. It’s an opportunity for us to be efficient with our services.” He said the schools in North Idaho that have been working to form the network for the past two years already have 10 schools signed on, including both regular and charter schools, and eight of them are rural schools.
Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, debated against the bill, saying, “This rural education support is new money, a new line item for $300,000. … This spending on this new bill is equivalent to about eight new teachers, and it will be competing with teacher pay every year.”
Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, also spoke against the bill. “Unfortunately, the changes to this bill from last year have made it so that it is not a bill I can support,” she said. “This would only serve Region 1. … I believe that it is an additional layer of bureaucracy in the education space that I believe Idaho does not need at this time.”
Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, spoke out in favor of the bill. “This will help our small districts tremendously,” she said. “They can … partner with larger districts that have the teachers and the large amount of courses that our rural districts need. … I hope you will give it a chance.”
The bill now moves to the Senate side. Here’s how the House vote broke down:
Voting yes: Reps. Amador, Anderson, Armstrong, Bedke, Boyle, Burtenshaw, Cheatham, Chew, Clow, DeMordaunt, Erpelding, Gannon, Gestrin, Gibbs, Hixon, Holtzclaw, Jordan, Kerby, King, Kloc, Loertscher, Malek, McCrostie, McDonald, Mendive, Packer, Raybould, Redman, Rubel, Shepherd, Smith, Syme, Toone, Troy, VanOrden, Wintrow and Wood.
Voting no: Reps. Anderst, Barbieri, Bell, Blanksma, Chaney, Collins, Crane, Dayley, Dixon, Giddings, Hanks, Harris, Hartgen, Horman, Kauffman, Kingsley, Luker, Manwaring, Miller, Monks, Moon, Moyle, Nate, Palmer, Perry, Scott, Stevenson, Thompson, Trujillo, VanderWoude, Youngblood, Zito and Zollinger.