Category Archives: Legislature 2018

El Chapo’s Gem State Money Laundering School Voucher Bill

By Levi Cavener

Cavener_Levi_HeadshotYou wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that Rep. John Vander Woude, R-Nampa, had tutilege from a drug cartel’s money launderer while he was drafting the school voucher bill passed by Idaho’s house last week.  A cursory read of the legislation makes it painfully obvious what the proposed law really is: a money laundering scheme.

The goal of money laundering, of course, is to conceal the origin of dollars.  Except, in this case, the origin of the money is painfully obvious and the purpose of the legislation is also equally so.  See, here’s the deal: Article Nine, Section Five of Idaho’s Constitution makes it abundantly clear that the state cannot distribute money to sectarian entities. Continue reading


Proposal Eliminates IRI From Teacher Evaluations

The IRI, or Idaho Reading Indicator, will be removed from the state’s list of acceptable measures to use when determining if a teacher is producing measurable student achievement increases.

Rep. Julie VanOrden (R-Pingree)

Rep. Julie VanOrden’s proposal acknowledges that the IRI is “a reading skills screener,” and not a measure of student growth in achievement. As such, it’s use in future teacher evaluations would be prohibited if her bill is successful.

The IRI is given to K-3 students in the fall and spring of each academic year. Depending on the grade, it assesses letter name fluency, letter sound fluency, and Oral Reading Passage Fluency.

The IRI also sets target values for fall and spring each year. Obviously, a teacher serving difficult populations of students might not reach the target value even though they generated substantial growth during the academic year.

Thus the concern with a school or district which chooses to use the IRI as a student achievement indicator as part of a teacher’s evaluation.

Such a move, nearly by definition, guarantees low marks for teachers serving English Language Learners, special education, and free/reduced lunch students who are statistically less likely to reach set target proficiency values.

Which is why VanOrden wants to eliminate the use of the measure in teacher evaluations. The bill leaves intact over a dozen other measures that can be used instead.

It is interesting, however, that this logic was not extended to the Idaho Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) which continues to be on the list of approved measures in the bill.

Like the IRI, the ISAT measures set proficiency targets, not student growth. For all the same reasons as the IRI, the use of such a measure in a teacher’s evaluation blindly punishes teachers working with difficult populations of students who, again, are statistically unlikely to reach set proficiency target values.

Perhaps, VanOrden’s philosophy here is one of baby steps. Depending on the action this bill sees might be indicative of a future effort to also remove the ISAT from the list for all the same reasons.

New Legislation Would Address Retiring Teacher’s Sick Leave Bank “Gap”

While many teachers retire directly from their normal full time teaching position, many others choose to reduce their duties to a half time or classified position for a year or two before throwing in the towel completely.

Unfortunately, this choice has caused more than a few tears when these individuals go to retire. That’s because a teacher’s accrued unused sick leave distribution is calculated using a formula dependent on the salary at the year of retirement.

For a teacher who chooses to ease out into retirement by going half time or trade teaching for a classified position, the distribution at retirement could be substantially less when calculated using the salary at the time of retirement.

Senator Janae Ward-Engelking (D-Boise)

The proposal, sponsored by Janae Ward-Engelking, would eliminate this heartburn that is a retirement surprise of the worst kind by substituting the language of “the year of retirement” for “highest year of salary.”

This change would ensure that sick leave accrued during decades of teaching will not suddenly lose over half its value if a teacher chooses to ease out slowly instead of all at once.

Unused sick days can become very valuable at retirement because they can be cashed out at half their normal value upon retirement to be used to continue paying health, dental, vision, and life insurance premiums.

For many, unused sick leave establishes a “bridge” between retirement age and Medicare/Social Security age by paying for interim health insurance premiums.

Obviously, an educator who chooses to go part time might not realize how that decision would impact their retirement, particularly if they have accumulated a substantial cache of sick leave over the duration of their career unless this change is made.

As the fiscal note states, the cost of this change would be relatively low considering that teachers had banked these days under their higher salaries while teaching full time and paying into the system at a higher rate.

STEM Diploma Unveiled: Will Idaho Offer Two Types of Graduation Certificates?

Sen. Nonini (R- Coeur d’Alene)

Senator Nonini is sponsoring a bill that would create two seperate diplomas for graduating high school students in lieu of the current single statewide diploma.

Continue reading

New Bill Seeks to Allow Districts to Dump Common Core in Idaho

Rep. Ronald Nate

Rep. Ronald Nate (R-Rexburg) has introduced a bill that would allow districts to dump Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and replace them with…well that part isn’t quite clear.

The bill doesn’t change the fact that Idaho has adopted CCSS as the state’s content standards. Instead, in a curious workaround, the bill’s text states that if Idaho embraces CCSS, then districts have the prerogative to express their displeasure of that decision by dropping CCSS and replacing it with standards of the local district’s choosing. Continue reading

2017 Reviewed and 2018 Previewed: A Teacher’s Perspective

Superintendent Ybarra

Since I have done this yearly reflection, I find that 2017 was the most mild year I have had reflected upon.  That outcome lead me declare this 365 days the year of Sherri Ybarra.

I know that won’t go over well with some. Let me explain.

Normalcy.  2017 had no major brawls that pitted Idaho’s teachers against the State Department or their elected officials.  Minor squabbles aside, 2017 marked a high water mark in the ability of teachers and districts to work collaboratively with the SDE and the statehouse.   Continue reading