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Education Reporter

Idaho Lawmakers Heed Public Objections to High School Reform
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Following statewide public outrage over proposed Idaho State Board of Education (SBE) "rule changes" to promote school reform, the Idaho Senate adopted a resolution (SCR 134) to reject the plans.

The SBE's rule changes were aligned with high school reforms promoted by the National Governors' Association and the U.S. Department of Education.

Public objections to the SBE proposals included criticism of:

  • an increase in math and science requirements to support (School-to-Work) career pathways.

  • loss of art and music programs and teachers; loss of seminary courses attended by students statewide.

  • International Baccalaureate programs that incur higher costs, loss of local input into curriculum, foreign jurisdiction over IB disputes, promotion of global citizenship and other United Nations social reforms, and more.

SBE plans also sought to increase "capacity for the Idaho Digital Learning Academy" which exists within Idaho's State Department of Education to provide on-line courses for students.

The high school curriculum design rule was approved by the House Education Committee. But on March 30th, SCR 134 passed with a 24-11 vote — the SBE's pending rule changes were declared "null and void."

After the adoption of SCR 134, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) denied funding for the plans that the SBE had estimated would impact the state general fund by $56.5 million for the fiscal years 2007 to 2013: $1.4M (2007), $1M (2008), $3.9M (2009), $6.8M (2010), $11.5M (2011), $14.8M (2012), and $17.1M (2013).

Without a JFAC guarantee for funding, the SBE withdrew its proposal even though as a "rule change" — not legislation — the reform plans could have taken effect. The State Board of Education will be working on a new plan to present next year. (Associated Press, 4-8-2006)

20% sales tax hike to increase school funding 
The Idaho Education Association (IEA) has collected petition signatures to put a measure on the November ballot called the Idaho Local Schools Investment Act. If there are enough valid petition signatures, there will be a ballot question in November that proposes adding a one-cent sales tax — which is a 20% sales tax increase — for school funding.

Economics professor Ron Nate of Rexburg, Idaho explained, "The IEA estimates $200 million of additional revenues from the tax increase. Divide $200 million by Idaho's population, and that's $144 per person, or $576 for a family of four, each year." (Idaho Falls Post Register, 2-28-2006)

The proposal wording could allow funding of some of the high school reforms included in the SBE rule changes that were rejected by the Idaho Senate.

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