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Education standards rewrite passes House committee, but State Board of Education remains neutral

A zoom conference call screen shot of the Idaho State Board of Education meeting, March 3, 2022.
State Board of Education members meet via Zoom, March 3, 2022.

Idaho lawmakers are ready to move a new set of K-12 education standards through, replacing the 'Common Core' standards used since 2011 for English language arts, math and science.

House Bill 716 would replace the standards with a new set developed by the State Department of Education in consultation with Idaho teachers.

Appearing before the House Education Committee Thursday, Idaho Education Association President Paul Stark told lawmakers he was comfortable with the new standards. Many students lined up to testify against new standards, saying they don’t do enough to increase education on climate change.

In a bipartisan vote, the committee approved the legislation, plus a concurrent resolution which would release the state from Common Core standards to the house floor. Both are needed to complete the process.

Typically, a change in educational standards would come to the legislature from the State Board of Education. But the Board did not adopt the revised standards, and Rep. Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls), Chairman of the State House Education Committee, proposed measures to adopt the standards through legislation.

Thursday afternoon, the State Board of Education convened a special meeting to discuss taking an official position on Clow’s legislation but could not reach a consensus.

“I made a lot of promises,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra. “We as a board could do something great here. The people of Idaho are not happy with public education; we are under attack.”

The new standards were developed under her leadership, and she urged the board to support the legislation. It wasn’t exactly clear who Ybarra was referring to as being ‘under attack.’

While many Board members did voice support for the new standards, it was not clear how the changes would be funded or how much it would all cost. Ybarra explained costs could reach around $44 million over three years, depending on the need to adjust testing protocols and training for staff on the new standards.

She said that number had been researched by staff, presented and discussed with lawmakers, though several Board of Education members said they had not previously seen the figure.

“I’d feel much better about moving forward if I had a commitment from the legislature,” said Board President Kurt Liebich. “Hey, once you do the analysis and you understand what it's going to cost, whether it's $1 million or $50 million, we’re going to make that appropriation,” he said.

Without a more specific budget or promise from lawmakers to cover the costs of updating the standards, Board members were hesitant to endorse the legislation.

“You are never going to know unless you take this step. Educators are ready, parents are ready, the people are ready, and this really sounds like an excuse,” an audibly frustrated Ybarra said of fellow board members' concerns. She disputed claims that a fiscal impact statement had not previously been provided to Board members.

Ybarra’s motion to support the new standards legislation failed when all other Board members abstained from voting, leaving the panel officially neutral on the legislation.

House Bill 716 and HCR 39 now head to the full House, both recommended ‘do-pass’ by the House Education Committee.

Troy Oppie is a reporter and local host of 'All Things Considered' for Boise State Public Radio News.

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