IEA HOTLINE Podcast

2023 Legislative Session Preview

December 16, 2022 Mike Journee Season 1 Episode 1
2023 Legislative Session Preview
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
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IEA HOTLINE Podcast
2023 Legislative Session Preview
Dec 16, 2022 Season 1 Episode 1
Mike Journee

In our inaugural episode of Idaho Education Association's HOTLINE podcast, we discuss the political landscape for public education on the cusp of the 2023 regular session of the Idaho Legislature. 

Coming off of historic investments for K-12 public education during the 2022 session and another record $330 million earmark made during a special session in September, lawmakers face important questions about the need for continuing the positive trend for Idaho's classrooms. 

We discuss policy priorities for IEA members including:

  • Funding for student mental health and wellbeing resources on school campuses
  • Better pay and benefit offerings for educators — especially critical education support professionals
  • Badly needed resources for public school facilities across the state

The panel also discusses the need for education advocates to defeat expected legislation introducing vouchers.
 
This episode's guests are:

  • Layne McInelly, IEA president
  • Matt Compton, IEA associate executive director
  • Chris Parri, IEA political director
Show Notes Transcript

In our inaugural episode of Idaho Education Association's HOTLINE podcast, we discuss the political landscape for public education on the cusp of the 2023 regular session of the Idaho Legislature. 

Coming off of historic investments for K-12 public education during the 2022 session and another record $330 million earmark made during a special session in September, lawmakers face important questions about the need for continuing the positive trend for Idaho's classrooms. 

We discuss policy priorities for IEA members including:

  • Funding for student mental health and wellbeing resources on school campuses
  • Better pay and benefit offerings for educators — especially critical education support professionals
  • Badly needed resources for public school facilities across the state

The panel also discusses the need for education advocates to defeat expected legislation introducing vouchers.
 
This episode's guests are:

  • Layne McInelly, IEA president
  • Matt Compton, IEA associate executive director
  • Chris Parri, IEA political director
Mike Journee:

Welcome to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast, weekly discussion about what's happening at the Idaho legislature around public education, and the policy priorities of ies members, IEA members or public school educators from all over the state. They're Idaho's most important education experts, and they use their influence to fight for free quality and equitable public education for every student in the state. I'm Mike journee, communications director at AI, and I'll be your host for this inaugural episode of hotline. Today, we'll be discussing where things stand for education policy for the 2023 session of the Idaho legislature. Joining me today are central members of the IAEA lobby team IEA, President Lee McAnally, Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and IEA political director, Chris Perry. But before we jump to the legislature, I want to take just a couple of seconds to introduce his podcast listeners. For those who follow the IEA the name of the show may be familiar. In previous years, we put together a weekly email called hotline summarizing the week's events around education at the statehouse, this show will step into that role going forward. We're always looking for new ways to engage with audiences eager to learn about the perspective of IEA members, and progress on their policy priorities. This new podcast will help us do that. For those who would like to receive an email prompts when a new show is ready, you can go to the IEA website at Idaho eaa.org and sign up. In addition, the show will be available wherever you typically listen to your podcasts, including Apple podcasts, Spotify, Amazon, music, and others. We'll also post new episodes on our social media feeds. So if you don't currently follow IEA, on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, now you have another reason to jump in and follow us. We're on thanks for joining us today for this inaugural episode of the high podcast. Let's jump right into it. You know we have coming up in January the 2023 session of the Idaho legislature and it comes on the coattails of some pretty significant movement in the state education policy around a 11% increase in funding that came forward in the 2022. Regular Session. Then there was a special session in September, where the legislature earmarked$330 million for K through 12 education. Elaine, tell us a little bit about kind of your perspective and what you're hearing from IEA members about the status of education policy in the state and how they feel about things in recent

Layne McInelly:

years. So educators across the state are feeling pretty optimistic. They, like you said feel good about the last legislative session, the 11% increase, they saw increases to their salaries as well as to things that are going to help benefit our students across the state. And that's ultimately what our educators want is to have the best education in Idaho for our students. So they're feeling optimistic that this legislative session, we can continue on that positive track. They are excited to come over here and to lobby with our legislators and have conversations with them share the stories about what's happening in their classrooms, because every single day, something amazing is happening in our classrooms across the state. But there are also things that aren't amazing that our educators need to share with our legislators so that we can move public education forward in Idaho.

Mike Journee:

That's right. Yeah. And, Matt, you've been you've been over to the statehouse for quite a long time. And Lane's point about about having having members come and talk to the ball makers makes a huge difference, doesn't it?

Matt Compton:

It certainly does. I think that the IEA has an extraordinarily strong lobby team, but we're no replacement for the voices of educators, having them come tell their stories, their why the experiences that they have in the classroom is far more compelling than what we as lobbyists can share. So when we have the opportunity for educators to either come lobby or testify, that's always our preference.

Layne McInelly:

I think part of the success from last year was our educators coming over and sharing their stories so that our legislators could hear what was happening in our classrooms. And so it's incredibly important that our educators remember that they need to be sharing those stories with the lawmakers when they come back home or when the educators come over here.

Mike Journee:

Right. And, and not to get ahead of ourselves. But we do have we do have our annual lobby day planned for January 16. This year. That's when dozens of hundreds if not hundreds of of IEA members descend on the statehouse and talk to lawmakers. And then we've got we got an additional thing that we're doing this year. Chris, we're going to we're going to be doing what we're calling local lobby days as well throughout the session to bring to bring IEA members in talk a little bit about that. Yeah,

Chris Parri:

so the idea came last year when we had Add a ragtag team assembled from Eastern Idaho that made its way over to Boise in I believe, March that right. And they were here for some controversial bills in house education that were submitted last year. And they were able to, since they were here, at a random kind of week, they were able to testify against those bills and also work with their individual legislators from Eastern Idaho to construct some really smart ideas moving forward. So we're hoping to replicate that by having weeks throughout late January, February and March, where locals from different regions of the state can come on down, chat with their legislators, share stories, like you guys said, and definitely humble the lobby team.

Matt Compton:

It was it was really serendipitous that we had this team from Idaho Falls that wasn't able to attend the traditional lobby day, they had some PD scheduled with the district. So they had arranged to come later in the session. And it just happened to fall on a day in house education, where we just had some really nefarious pieces of legislation. And then we had educators in the room to talk specifically to those bills. And it was fantastic. So we're replicating that experience this session, because we recognize just how effective it was.

Mike Journee:

Matt, tell us a little bit about the special session and how it was an odd scenario. Jumping into that in September.

Matt Compton:

So I've been with the IEA for I think 10 sessions, and never before has a legislature set allocated resources for a future legislature to actually make policy decisions for and that's what happened on September 1 Is that the legislature saw fit to allocate 330 million new dollars to go towards K 12 education, which is fantastic, but they didn't tie any strings or policy requirements to that waiting for January to come around where a new field of frosh lawmakers are going to come in and really make the determination on how that spent. So it's a very unique opportunity. I think it gives the Idaho education stakeholders a great opportunity to develop relationships and share fresh new ideas with fresh new lawmakers who haven't spent much time in the legislature. But what it also does is it sets up anti public education advocates in a way that they can start making deals on the side about how this money is going to be allocated. Just yesterday. Well, this week, we were reading in the Salt Lake Tribune that the Utah government, a governor is looking to do the same thing, pull a special session, and have a record investment in education where he would give $6,000 to every educator, and then also a pretty significant tax break. And his legislature is already signaling that they're going to attach the requirement for vouchers to that proposal, that if he wants to get anything done that vouchers has to be part of part of that plan. And we heard during the September session, already, some lawmakers signaling that this was going to be their game plan come January.

Mike Journee:

So Matt, tell us a little bit about where the state is financially after the special session moving into this session.

Matt Compton:

Yeah, the state is still looking at record surplus. I think Idaho's economy is still very strong, regardless of what you might hear at the national level, the state still anticipates having approximately a billion dollars in additional surpluses. So that really frees up quite a bit of one time money for additional investments, both in education or whatever else the legislature determines is a high priority, whether it be transportation or infrastructure. I think that there's a great opportunity for the legislature to make record investments in Idaho, regardless if it's education, or any other industrial space, hopefully

Mike Journee:

education. Yeah. Absolutely. And just for our listeners, edification, we are going to have another another episode of this in advance of the legislative session talking about the funding question, we're gonna have a special guest, Senator Jamie Ward Engel King, who is an AAA member, has been a longtime lawmaker, and is also a member of the budget committee, as well. So we're excited about having that conversation with her later. So Layne, Idaho Education Association members do have a set of policy priorities that we're walking into the legislative session with, talk a little bit about what those key priorities are for us and and, and give us a little bit of picture about why they're important.

Layne McInelly:

Yeah, so Education members across the state come together and they decide our key priorities at our delegate assembly and this last year, they really prioritized the students of public education we He saw that there are major behavioral and mental health issues across the state that needs to be addressed. We need to make sure that all schools across the state have counselors in their schools and nurses and psychologists, so the educator can stay in the classroom and they can educate the students. And when an issue arises, there are the properly, properly trained professionals that can step in and help those students when they're in the time of crisis or when they're dealing with the trauma that they're dealing with. Educators have been spread so thin lately with trying to not only be the educator, but also the nurse and the counselor, and the psychologist and the, the behavior interventionist that they, they're getting burned out. So they need to be able to step back and remember that they are the educator that they're there to educate the student. And we need those professionals in our schools that are trained specifically for trauma or mental health issues,

Mike Journee:

right. And every minute that an educator is dealing with a behavioral issue, or a sick child, or anything else is going on in their classroom is a minute that they're not teaching the rest of the class. Right. I mean, that's an important part of this. And, and I mentioned, the chronic underfunding of public education. And that's part of what this is that starvation, if you will, of funding from Idaho classrooms has created a cascade of impacts that do affect learning outcomes. And that's the same with educational support professionals, right?

Layne McInelly:

Absolutely. Not only that, but if we had increased funding, then we could have smaller class sizes, the the amount of time that you're able to spend with students when you have 20 kids in your class compared to when you have 32 or 40 students in your classroom. And so we need to stop being 51st in the nation and per pupil spending, and this 330 million that has, through this special session is helping us move in that direction. But we're going to move from 51st, to what 48. And so we need to do better for our students across the state. And one of the ways that we can do that is not only class sizes, but like you said, helping our paraprofessionals, making sure that all schools are properly staffed with the support professionals that we need, so that the educators can rely on those paraprofessionals to work with the students that are in the highest need as well. Not only do we want to have properly staffed paraprofessionals in our schools, but we also need to make sure that we are paying them properly, we need to have them not only have a livable age, but have them receive a professional age.

Mike Journee:

And and one of the things, Matt, that we've that we've that we talked about is is over the summer, this crisis of vacancies in education. And a big part of that is looking at educators writ large, right, it's not just about the the certified educator who's in the classroom, but these others that create this, this environment for success in the schools. And so we're gonna be focusing really hard on that during this legislative session as well, it's gonna

Matt Compton:

be really actually quite critical. So many of the stories that we've heard from educators in the field this year, are that they're just not enough adults in in the buildings. And so the ratio of adults to children is out of balance. And that's why we see some of the interruptions, the behavioral issues coming into this legislative session, we have to make sure that districts have the resources, the financial resources as well as the benefits like insurance to provide working families and communities what they need to, to work in school districts right now, in too many school districts, those Classified Employee employees can find work in at a local Walmart or at a grocery store, or a restaurant making more money than they could in in the district. And that's just it's really appalling.

Mike Journee:

And it's creating, it's creating a crisis, literally across the state. And even even in well funded districts, they're having a hard time finding folks to work for that kind of a wage increase. So So we've talked about, we've talked about better pay benefits for all educators, including paraprofessional, prepare professionals and education support professionals, better behavioral mental health services for students, so that so that in our campuses, but lastly, one one of the other key funding challenges is facilities. And we've been talking a lot with our education partners, our coalition of public education supporters about that, talk a little bit about how that plays into this bigger picture for for for education, too. It's pretty tough

Chris Parri:

to to teach kids if the pipes are frozen in a school right? Or if the windows are falling apart or not insulating well in the classroom is 40 degrees or something like that. Elaine and I grew up in rural eastern Idaho. We know how cold The can get out in parts of the state, and then also how hot it can get. So we saw a lot of the one time money from pandemic relief dollars from the American rescue plan. And so our funds go towards H vac units and really bolstering our school facilities at the local level. But as we saw from last session, there was a office of performance evaluations report about school facilities, and this was only a survey of 77 of our 105 school districts in the state. But even among the 77 school districts, they saw about a billion dollars of deficit or if needed maintenance for these, these schools to get them up to a good standard, right. So like Matt mentioned, there's a ton of money one time money, thanks to smart budgeting at the state level, that could be used to lift that, that tide,

Mike Journee:

or at least, or at least begin to backfill the need, right? I mean, so that's, that's, that's something that that has been talked about. For several years, I might not remember,

Matt Compton:

one of the reasons that Idaho has such a record surplus is also because of the growth. So it's not even just repairing existing buildings. But it also means building new buildings, you look at communities like Idaho Falls or West data, where they're experiencing a lot of influx in population, which means they're bringing more students, which means they need more schools. And it then require falls on the back of local property, taxpayers, to fund bonds to build new buildings. And I think this one time money, not only would be good for existing facilities, but it would be an economic investment in so many communities what which need to build schools,

Layne McInelly:

right? Not only that, but our constitution talks about having a free and equitable education for all students in Idaho. And it's not equitable, when students in major major metropolitan areas, get to go to science labs and do science experiments. And then other students in rural areas don't have science labs, and they learned science in a general classroom, and don't have the opportunities to do the experiments. And so that's one example of how it's not equitable across the state, we need to make sure that all students have the same opportunity to learn and grow. Right,

Mike Journee:

this chronic underfunding of education that we've been talking about. One of the one of the key pieces of evidence to that is, is the number of bonds and levies that edge that school districts have to float every year, in order to pay the bills around basic, fundamental expenses. We did it we did some quick addition, this year, and in the calendar year, for 2022, almost a billion dollars worth of these bonds and levies were brought forward by school districts for things like new buildings in in fast growing districts, and in smaller districts they're asking to pay for, for school buses for crying out loud. So these kinds of things, when and when, when a district can't do that lane, that's when it sets up that inequity that you're talking about.

Layne McInelly:

Absolutely. When those bonds aren't able to pass, then it's the students that it really affects they don't have the same opportunities that they're the same kids across the state have. And so we need to make sure that every student in Idaho has the same opportunity to learn and grow and achieve the best that they can.

Mike Journee:

And just to make it clear, it is the Idaho legislature's role in the state, according to the state constitution to ensure that that's happening. And that is not happening in this state.

Chris Parri:

Absolutely. In 2005, there was a Supreme Court case, Idaho Supreme Court case, talking about facilities and the legislature meeting its constitutional obligations to students in the state, and it found that they were not and actually since 2005, funding has gone down per district from the state. And you can look at the data as well and see that most of the places that pass their bonds and pass their levies do so year over year, and the places that are unable to also don't pass them year over year. And over time, you can see how this builds a truly inequitable education landscape, where some folks in some districts have great facilities can have the smaller classrooms that we've been talking about the cool science labs and cool extracurricular activities. And then folks and other other districts just by virtue of living in a different zip code have completely different educational opportunity,

Matt Compton:

which is just not us also sitting around this table clamoring for additional investments in education, like survey after survey poll after poll into you know, Idaho taxpayers indicate that education funding is the single most important issue, and particularly protecting rural schools through additional investments. We see that 91 92% of Idaho voters say that investments in rural education is the single most important thing for the legislature.

Mike Journee:

Right. So those are those are key policy priorities going into the legislative session. So Chris, tell us a little bit about what you've been hearing in regard to potential voucher legislation and give us a little bit of background what actually vouchers really are?

Chris Parri:

Sure, yeah. So vouchers, and you'll see different terms floated kind of getting at the same concept. So I think the the current popular phrase is education savings accounts, which are basically the exact same as vouchers, they get at the exact same end goal, which is to basically defund public education in favor of subsidizing private tuition for private schools and for parochial schools. So

Mike Journee:

and and this and this is this is often done as it's it's couched in a way it says that this is for all income families who want to provide a better education for their children, whether they're in a rural district or not. But in reality, what we've seen across the country is really this, this is a way more often than not wealthy families, who can have already who are already gonna be sending their kids to a private school are using these vouchers to do that. And and the difference between the private school tuition, and what a voucher is going to pay isn't enough for a low income family to actually make that up difference up. And so that's why usually the wealthy families are the ones to take advantage of that, right.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, I think everyone's everyone, at least in our school out in Teton County. We learned about Adam Smith and what happens when the government gets really involved in the free market. And when you start subsidizing tuition, tuition will just go up, you're eliminating a market impulse to have private schools and parochial schools meet interesting their meet their families where they are, I have no problem with folks choosing a private or parochial school. But we know also that those choices exist in places that are usually better off as well. So more urban and suburban areas. There are not a bunch of private schools in rural Idaho, there are 20 counties across the state that have no private school options for for folks in those areas. And what voucher what a voucher system kind of sets up or an education savings account system is that those rural taxpayers are going to be funding a statewide voucher system. That will be basically sucking money from those rural districts or rural counties into urban and suburban areas where those choices exist. So and we also know that those folks in rural areas typically have lower income. So you're setting you're kind of just amplifying the the inequities across the state that we see with the levy and bond stuff.

Mike Journee:

And robbing already strapped public school classroom. Totally. Yeah. Funding for absolutely for to do this. Yeah, there's

Chris Parri:

there's kind of a this thought that it would be holding public schools harmless if money quote unquote, followed the student. That is not true. We have a set amount of money, a small pie right now, in our general fund in our state budgets. You can't just create a parallel public, well, somewhat Public Private Partnership system education system, without making the divvying up of that pie smaller for public schools to so in the end, certainly not before fully funding, but totally Yeah, like, I keep going back to the idea that we should be, we should see what our public schools are capable of, if we fully funded our public schools gave every rural student the education that they deserve for being in Idaho. And I think that we see some really awesome, amazing things. And we just have never done that. We haven't done that. Certainly, since I've been alive. I'm younger, I guess. But yeah, so but

Matt Compton:

I think at that point, also that all of us would be willing to have a conversation about what it would be like to publicly fund a private school system, because we're not doing the job right now of public, probably funding the, the our public school system. And there's some proponents of this redistribution of public school resources, to private education opportunities. There, truly not doing this, for under the moniker of school choice, they really are looking to defund public schools. And it's all in a coordinated attack, to diminish the public's trust in public schools. And I think that it's important to distinguish those folks at the legislature who are seeking to do harm to public schools rather than to empower parents.

Mike Journee:

That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And then though, you mentioned the different monitors that that vouchers kind of come under those include scholarships, and they also include parent choice, or school choice. Those are those are phrases that enemies of public education have used in order to make it a little bit more palatable that word voucher has become in public for most Publix for most of the public, something that they don't want. And that's, again, our polling and other polling shows time and time again, that that's the way the public feels about vouchers and taking money from public education

Matt Compton:

that in future podcasts, we'll do a deeper dive into vouchers. And we can really flesh out some of the evidence that demonstrates that that either vouchers or private schools are not doing as good of a job as traditional public schools.

Chris Parri:

And just the last point on this too, it's a smart strategy to try and come up with other terms for this school choice or education savings accounts or, or hope and opportunity scholarships, whatever you want to call it. It's a smart strategy. Because when we pull, and we say, Hey, would you would you support a voucher system? You get, I don't know, maybe 28 30% of people that say, oh, yeah, maybe whatever. But if you ask people, Hey, can we use your tax dollars to fund private tuition at private schools, folks are much less into

Mike Journee:

the election in November changed a lot in the legislature this year. And I would like Chris, to talk a little bit about kind of what that means for education policy. And and how that change. Again, we've got a new legislature coming to town, a new legislature that has been handed this $330 million for public education without any policy attached to it. And and, and from all indications, it sounds like the legislature did move a little bit to the right. And so how is that going to play out? Do you think, Chris, in this legislative session? Yep. So

Chris Parri:

earthquake, right, an earthquake in Idaho politics when redistricting happens earlier this year. And our first kind of view of what the effects of that would be where the primary elections were. Luckily, a lot of extreme candidates lost more moderate candidates. We saw that certainly at the statewide level. And then it was it was, we saw it across the state as well, particularly in southeastern Idaho. So and then moving into the general election, we also saw kind of the final structure of the legislature after that, right. And we see the we also saw the makeup of the Senate Ed and how said committees. The Senate's overall, I think, got more conservative, and the house kind of got more moderate over, compared to previous years, almost like a regression to the mean, they kind of met each other.

Mike Journee:

Basically, it flipped, in some ways, because last year, we you know, the education proponents counted on the Senate Education Committee to kind of help fend off some of the more egregious attacks on public education. And this year, it sounds like we're going to be looking through the house to do help with

Chris Parri:

totally Yes, so the Senate had last year was the place where educators could count on a fair hearing of their ideas and their stories. And this time around, it's definitely gonna be house ed. So Santa Ed has a is a block of extremely ideological folks in the middle of it about six, six folks on that committee, that I would qualify as quite ideological and voucher folks, that they're not necessarily right now, it doesn't look like it's very friendly committee to educators. How said, however, the IEA actually endorsed 10 of the 17 members on that committee. And it's looking a lot friendlier to public education in general, a lot more practical. And I think that the House said is going to be a place where both Governor Lidl the state board of education and our educators across the state can get a fair hearing of their stories and and hopefully get some smart policy passed out of that committee.

Matt Compton:

Something that I'm really looking forward to between now and the legislative session is to come up with an accurate descriptor for some of the folks who are not now occupying the Senate because I think calling them conservative is probably a disservice to actual real conservatives. I don't have a descriptor now. And I'm not about name calling. But I do want to find a way for us to separate the anti public education advocates from like what real conservative looks conservativism looks like.

Mike Journee:

All right. And we often talk about enemies of public education writ large. you've alluded a little bit to the to the more nefarious goals behind this underfunding of education, not only in this state, but across this country, especially in places where we're conservatives. Whole whole primacy. So it does come back again to what is behind that. Why is it there? And well, what's the purpose behind that? To that

Chris Parri:

point to I mean, there are there are blue states as well that have that have passed vouchers and had awful outcomes to this is a sir, a nonpartisan issue. You see anti public education advocates in the Democratic Party and the Republican party and you name it. They're all over the place and And to be honest, it's a lot more about promoting particular corporate private education enterprises than it is about a particular like, strongly held passion for improving education across the board. We know public education was kind of what built this country to what it is I kind of like it. So why would we want to knock the columns down? When we when we clearly have a lot of work to do, but I'm happy with our public education system, I want to see it be successful. And I

Layne McInelly:

think that's one of the reasons why we've seen success in the legislature the last few years, is because our educators go over there and they talk to him about the priorities of public education. We don't care if you're a Democrat, Democrat or Republican. We care about the students of Idaho and our public education in Idaho. We don't care what's behind your name.

Mike Journee:

Well, that's fantastic. I think that's a fantastic note to end on right there. Gentlemen, thank you for the conversation. I look forward to more as as as the session comes on, and I appreciate your time. Awesome. Thanks, Max. Thank you. Thank you for listening to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast. Also, thanks to my colleagues IEA President Elaine McAnally IEA, Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and IEA political director Chris Perry. Please watch for future updates about new episodes on IEA social media channels, or sign up for email updates on our website at Idaho eaa.org. This is Mike journee, signing off. And as always, thank you Idaho's public school educators for everything they do for our State students, families, and public education.