Some smoke, but not a lot of fire on education issues


EDUCATION REFORM: The future looks bleak in Idaho, but there may be a few bright spots.

By Wayne Hoffman | Idaho Freedom Foundation

Midway (we hope) through the Idaho’s legislative session, we have yet to see a meaningful discussion on education innovation or the state’s adoption of Common Core education standards.

I’m sure the folks who support the standards and the direction of Idaho’s public schools will respond that there was a hearing not too long ago in which a panel was fed prepared questions about Common Core and some of the controversy surrounding the same, but there hasn’t been a broad legislative discussion. And by that I mean, you’d think that such a major issue would merit at least one debate on the floor of the House or Senate.

What’s more, Idaho is moving quickly to reinvest in the same broken system that just a few years ago we decided wasn’t sustainable or desirable.

That’s disappointing. At least a dozen states have been considering legislation to ditch Common Core. At the heart of that discussion is whether Common Core ultimately helps or hurts our kids. Efforts to innovate also are popping up all over, if not here.

That’s not to say there are no positive developments on the education front.

Senate Bill 1342 would give the Legislature a chance to approve the state’s participation in a multistate test. This is in response to Idaho’s involvement in the extensive and widely criticized new test that Idaho students will have to take as part of Common Core.

State Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, is pushing this legislation, butstate Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has expressed reservation about it.

House Bill 499 would create a parental “bill of rights” when it comes to public education. Among other things, state Rep. Janet Trujillo’s, R-Idaho Falls, legislation says parents have an absolute right to control how their children are educated and that the state’s role in the education of children is secondary and supportive to that of the parent. Trujillo’s bill also says “a fundamentally fair process” must be provided if the state moves to interfere with a parent’s rights related to his or her child’s education.

House Bill 507 would give parents options as the state is sucked deeper and deeper into the centralized education vortex. State Rep. John Vander Woude’s, R-Nampa, and state Sen. Bob Nonini’s, R-Coeur d’Alene, bill would create an education tax credit, allowing students who otherwise couldn’t afford it to attend a private school of their choice. It’s similar to a bill that made it through the House last year before it was sidelined by the Senate’s committee that deals with taxes. The bill would put student needs first. For parents who don’t like the homogenization of public education, or are looking for bigger challenges or different solutions for their kids, this provides a good alternative.

I still say the state should get out of Common Core. I’m not sensing the willpower to get out, much less hold a real debate about it, and that includes the disparaged and lengthy Common Core test. That’s too bad.

Public education, meanwhile, is crying out for real reforms that empower parents and students and free teachers to be teachers. Surely there’s nothing standing in the way to stop Idaho lawmakers from making that happen, is there?

Wayne Hoffman is president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

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