Science standards on hold. After hearing two hours of testimony Thursday, the Senate Education Committee delayed a vote on science standards until Monday. The process is complicated, but it boils down to one question: Do senators fall in line with their counterparts in the House, who deleted standards referring to climate change? On Thursday, senators heard from scientists, students, parents and teachers who want the standards passed, with climate change included.
A Medicaid morass. Each year, Medicaid covers about $34 million in counseling, therapy and other services for special-needs students. Some education leaders say Idaho is leaving $29 million a year on the table, and want to streamline the paperwork process. The Department of Health and Welfare opposes this idea — and instead wants to help districts navigate through the existing regulations.
A $20.3 million health care prescription. A powerful lawmaker wants to set up a $20.3 million line item to help schools offset the costs of health insurance. “This is one of the most important pieces of legislation I’ve worked on in education for many years,” said Sen. Dean Mortimer, an Idaho Falls Republican who heads the Senate Education Committee and sits on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. Depending on who you believe, Mortimer’s plan will help Idaho hang onto teachers — or exacerbate the teacher shortage.
Talking pre-K, again. A wide-ranging group of political, education and community leaders hit the Statehouse Wednesday to renew the push for state-funded pre-K. The discussion was pretty much academic, since there is no pre-K bill in the legislative pipeline. Idaho is one of only six states that doesn’t fund pre-K.
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Money for rural schools. A federal program has provided about $6.7 million a year to schools in timber country. But the payments dried up in March. Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, have joined a bipartisan push to rescue the Secure Rural Schools program.
Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News, an independent news site focused on K-12 policy and politics, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Richert has worked as a reporter, editor and columnist in Idaho since 1985.