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Eye On Boise

Otter vetoes bill on teacher evaluations and the Idaho Reading Indicator

Gov. Butch Otter has issued his first veto of the session, slapping his big, red VETO stamp on HB 501, legislation from House Education Chair Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, to remove the Idaho Reading Indicator from the list of assessment tools that school districts may use for measuring student achievement and growth. The bill’s Statement of Purpose says, “The Idaho Reading Indicator is a reading skills screener, and using it as a teacher evaluation tool presents a scenario that will possibly lead to under-identification of students needing intervention.”

The bill passed the House 66-1 on March 7, and the Senate 24-9 on March 16.

However, Otter's veto may not lead to the kind of override battle that it might have with another bill. House Speaker Scott Bedke said, "I'm going to consult with my education chairman." But he said he thought HB 501 was tied to the earlier budget bill for the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, which was defeated on the House floor; it would have removed funding to transition the state to a new version of the IRI next year. Subsequently, JFAC reconvened and wrote a new budget for the superintendent that included the IRI replacement funding, and it passed both houses.

"I believe that the issue is not as big as it was at the time of HB 501's passage," Bedke said.

The Senate's more divided vote on HB 501 came on the same day that the House killed the earlier superintendent's budget bill, SB 1354.

Otter, in his veto message to lawmakers, wrote, “Accountability for student outcomes is a hallmark of the career ladder for teacher pay approved by the 2015 Legislature. A teacher’s movement on the ladder is based on performance criteria, specifically that a majority of students show measurable achievement.” Districts have 12 measures they can choose from to determine that, including the IRI.

 “It was decided this session to replace the IRI with a more comprehensive assessment,” Otter wrote. “However, even the existing IRI is a valid measure of student growth from fall to spring. Reading proficiency in kindergarten through third grade is a critical metric of student progress and teacher accountability. It should not be stricken from teachers’ opportunities for movement on the career ladder.”

Bedke said he can't speak for his caucus or the full House, but said, "I agree with the governor that assessment and accountability was always integral to the career ladder and the increased investment in public school funding."  

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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