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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

House kills budget bill for state superintendent, amid debate over reading test replacement

The Idaho House meets on Friday, March 16, 2018 (The Spokesman-Review / Betsy Z. Russell)
The Idaho House meets on Friday, March 16, 2018 (The Spokesman-Review / Betsy Z. Russell)

The House has just voted 27-42 on the SB 1354, the budget bill for state Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra’s office – killing the Senate-passed budget bill. The budget bill includes no funding to expand a pilot program of a new, computerized version of the Idaho Reading Indicator assessment of reading ability by students in kindergarten through the third grade.

Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, told the House that the current “legacy” IRI is fully funded in the public schools budget, which the House had just finished passing in a series of overwhelmingly approving votes. But Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, said, “This body and the governor passed a bill last year that said that this year we would do a pilot with the IRI, and then have full rollout. That is the law we have right now. So we were expecting the IRI to be fully funded this year, and it appears that it is not.”

Horman responded, “The IRI is fully funded for the coming year – it is the legacy IRI which is in place, while we try to work out the issues related to the expansion of the IRI that is being administered by a commercial vendor in the state now.” She said, “We didn’t have full information at the time. We have been working diligently to get that information. … I would ask that you allow us to continue to work on this issue, try and find a solution that lets us go home next week and does right by our taxpayers and our students.”

But the House didn’t support the bill, prompting the House to then go at ease, while leaders conferred with lawmakers including House Appropriations Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome. When an agency’s budget bill fails, JFAC has to reconvene and try again to propose a budget that will pass.

Yesterday, the State Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of continuing with the expansion of the current pilot program, for which Dallas, Texas-based Istation won the contract last year.

On the seven bills that make up the public school budget, the votes were all either unanimous or near-unanimous. The only “no” votes came from Reps. Moyle and Thompson, who without explanation voted against SB 1350, the budget for the children’s division of the budget; and from Rep. Syme, who without explanation voted against SB 1352, the budget for the central services division. The K-12 school budget bills already have passed the Senate, so they now head to the governor’s desk.

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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