IEA HOTLINE Podcast

Idaho Legislature - Week 6

February 25, 2023 Mike Journee Season 1 Episode 10
Idaho Legislature - Week 6
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
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IEA HOTLINE Podcast
Idaho Legislature - Week 6
Feb 25, 2023 Season 1 Episode 10
Mike Journee

In this episode of Idaho Education Association's HOTLINE Podcast, we discuss Week 6 of the Idaho Legislature’s 2023 session. Our panel's discussion centers on:

  • The real fiscal impact of the session’s first voucher bill
  • A bill requiring school districts to provide separate bathrooms and locker rooms based on students’ gender at birth
  • A legislative committee’s rejection of expanded protections from abuse for school employees
  • A popular parent’s rights bill, March 14’s bond and levy elections and the emergence of budget legislation.

Joining today’s conversation are:

  • IEA President Layne McInelly
  • IEA’s Associate Executive Director Matt Compton
  • IEA Executive Director Paul Stark
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Idaho Education Association's HOTLINE Podcast, we discuss Week 6 of the Idaho Legislature’s 2023 session. Our panel's discussion centers on:

  • The real fiscal impact of the session’s first voucher bill
  • A bill requiring school districts to provide separate bathrooms and locker rooms based on students’ gender at birth
  • A legislative committee’s rejection of expanded protections from abuse for school employees
  • A popular parent’s rights bill, March 14’s bond and levy elections and the emergence of budget legislation.

Joining today’s conversation are:

  • IEA President Layne McInelly
  • IEA’s Associate Executive Director Matt Compton
  • IEA Executive Director Paul Stark
Mike Journee:

Welcome to Idaho Education Association's hotline podcast, a weekly discussion about what's happening at the Idaho legislature around public education and the policy priorities of IEA members. IEA members are public school educators from all over the state. They're Idaho's most important education experts, and they use their influence to fight for a free quality and equitable public education for every student in the state. I'm Mike journee, communications director dia, and I'll be your host for this episode of hotline. Today we discuss Week Six of the Idaho legislators 2023 session. Our discussion centers on the real fiscal impact of the sessions first voucher bill, a bill requiring school districts to provide separate bathrooms and locker rooms based on a student's gender and birth. A legislative committees rejection of expanded protections from abuse for school employees, a popular parents rights bill, march 14, bond and levy elections and the emergence of budget legislation. joining me for today's conversation are IEA President Layne McInelly IEA Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and IEA executive director Paul Stark. Layne, Paul, Matt, thanks for joining me today. And this conversation. It's week six of the legislature in things have really picked up the paces has moved quite a bit. There's a lot of bills coming forward in education committees, a lot of education bills and other committees as well. And so it's it's been a busy time, I do want to step back and revisit a bill that we talked about last week, the the the bathroom bill 1038, the, the the voucher bill from Tammy Nichols. And was which cleared the Senate Education Committee last week. Interestingly, this week, the nonpartisan Idaho center for fiscal policy released a report that said that the actual cost of this bill is going to be $368 million at the year 2025. And that's up from originally they said it was gonna be $20 million bill, then they said there's gonna be a $40 million bill. And now this independent sources saying so and this is this really is something that we know Paul happens in other states to where that where these kind of health care bills come forward.

Paul Stark:

Yeah, that's one of the things that we walked in knowing this is that this is not a light lift on the part of the legislature financially. And we that's one of the benefits actually not having adopted vouchers up to this point is we can clearly see from other states that this is a massive government program.

Mike Journee:

Yeah. And, and this bill, Layne is is exact copy of what we see in Arizona, they've got a similar kind of thing. This kind of this kind of language, it's being copied and pasted from all over the state. So we see and kind of a national push for this very specific bill, as has started up here in our state, our members, they don't like vouchers, and it's because it takes public dollars away from from public school classrooms, right?

Layne McInelly:

That's exactly right. And like Paul said, there are many states that we can look to, to learn from, and we don't want to make those same mistakes in Idaho. We have very educated people. And so we should be able to look at the case studies and determine that this isn't what Idahoans want. And like you said, anytime we take public funds away from our public schools, it's going to hurt our educators and our students. And we want the best education that we can provide possible. Right.

Mike Journee:

And so 1038 Matt is as passed, the Education Committee is heading to the house or to the sorry, to the Senate floor. And we're asking our members to stand up and be counted and let let senators know that they need to vote no on this bill, because, frankly, it's it could be a tight vote.

Matt Compton:

Yeah, when this when this legislation was actually heard in Senate Ed, the overwhelmingly the testimony was against Senate Bill 1038. And it wasn't just teachers or educators or members. It was people from all walks of Idaho there, everybody was coming out against this because they know the value of public schools in their community. So small rural school districts will will suffer from a voucher program like this. So I it's not going to just be our members who are reaching out it's going to be parents and community members across the state. That's

Mike Journee:

right. And so anybody who's listening, if you if you sign up for our hotline, email, then there'll be a story in this week's email about this, this bill, and there'll be an opportunity link there for you to go and tell key lawmakers about your opposition to this legislation.

Paul Stark:

Also, I think our listeners should look up the website, saveourschoolsidaho. It's a it's a wonderful website that really discusses all the details about what voucher schemes do to public education, but in particular note, which I love on that website as you can put in your zip code and you can Hit, hit the fine button, and it'll tell you how much your district itself is set to lose if a bill like this were to go forward. And I think that's a pretty, pretty interesting thing for our listeners to check out.

Mike Journee:

Absolutely. So, Matt, we have, since we're talking about vouchers, we understand that this next week, we're likely going to have some other voucher bills come forward. In the House Education Committee.

Matt Compton:

Yep. So we don't just have vouchers in the Senate. The house is interested in some some sort of voucher scheme themselves. We understand that there are three or four proposals that will likely be entertained in House Education sometime next week midweek. And so we'll have this fight over vouchers is certainly not over. We're going to be continuing this throughout this session, and, and certainly in years to come.

Mike Journee:

Okay, guys, let's talk about another another bill that was up yesterday. And it wasn't easy, an easy debate to listen to. There was what's kind of colloquially known as a bathroom bill that came forward in house and sorry, in the Senate Education. And the bill was introduced by Senator Ben Adams from Nampa. And, and it says that schools must maintain separate bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, dressing areas, and overnight accommodations for quote, biological boys, and biological girls. And, and, Elaine, we submitted some a test some testimony for this, this, this bill, and the upshot was, we feel like this is an attack on LGBTQ plus students.

Layne McInelly:

You're exactly right, it is an attack on our LGBTQIA plus students. And we know as educators that we're there to educate all students, not just a certain subsection of students or abroad, we want to make sure that we have safe just schools for every student that steps into our classroom, and they feel safe and comfortable. Because we know if a student doesn't feel safe in a learning environment, they're not learning.

Mike Journee:

That's absolutely right. And it's a very fundamental thing around pedagogy, right? I mean, we know that this bill, it's gonna hurt people. But again, we know that students who identified differently than their gender, their birth gender is are going to be hurt by this. And we know that the suicide rate among among these companies, students is almost three times as high as it is, among others.

Layne McInelly:

The suicide rate in Idaho is astronomical, I think we're first in the nation. And this marginalized community is one of the communities that has the highest rate of suicide. And so we as educators need to make sure that they have that safe environment where they can come to school, and know that they're there to learn. And then they can go use the restroom that they need to go and use and then get back to the classroom. It's not about anything, but making sure that we have safe environments for all students.

Mike Journee:

And it's really affirming who they are right, giving them that foundation of understanding that this adult understands who I am. And they they respect me for that. And that that clears the deck then for them to be able to learn.

Matt Compton:

Alright, the sad irony here is that this legislation was heard on suicide awareness.

Paul Stark:

I think we could say, you know, this is a difficult issue. Obviously, there's passions, great passions, really on both sides of the issue. I do believe there's an Idaho solution to this, I do believe there's a way forward. But going on the attack is not the way to do it. Collaboration is the way to do and there is there will be a good solution that does work. It's just that this is the holy the wrong way to approach these things.

Matt Compton:

And I don't I don't mean to be hyperbolic here. I don't think I am being hyperbolic. But it is just a continuation of using schools as the battleground for these culture wars. We saw it with the critical race theory arguments of years past and then looping in the social emotional attacks. This is just another way for folks to delegitimize public schools. And that's where you then hear the outcry of why, quote unquote, school choice is so important so that we can get students out of government schools and into some other form of education, which simply means vouchers for private schools.

Mike Journee:

That's right. And then kind of to the both of your points. This is something that's kind of consumed the Caldwell school district here over the past several weeks. And this is kind of I think this is the legislature's attempt to kind of get at that and take advantage of that controversy.

Matt Compton:

It's consumed the Caldwell school district and several districts across the state. And to be quite frank, it's consumed this legislative session, there hasn't been a single piece of legislation that has been proposed that would help students in classrooms this year. This is it's all Attack, attack, attack, or defund public schools. All right.

Mike Journee:

So Paul, another bill that came forward this week was House Bill 114, which was which was co sponsored by Representative Chris Mathias, and democratic Boise and Sonia gallery's, a member of the IEA and advice Education Committee vice chairwoman worry McCann. And this bill was intended to extend existing protections for educators from abuse and assault and all the other types of things that we know our our members endure in the classroom and elsewhere, extended to everyone who is an employee of a school district, right?

Paul Stark:

Yeah, that's right. It's so already on the books in Idaho, there is some protection for teachers, it's titled abuse of teachers. And this was simply an attempt to recognize that there are many in the school setting school employees that have suffered from abuse, intimidation, you know, shouted at and that sort of thing. And this was simply to extend that out to include all school employees, but also to make the definitions a little bit more certain, and less ambiguous. Looks like a really great bill to me. We testified on it and like it narrowly,

Mike Journee:

And the committee voted it down. I was pretty, I was pretty surprised by the conversation that to be had around that bill, I did not seem to be going in that it was seemed like a kind of a simple thing to do. And they, but they really, they stepped up and in you and Representative Mathias for really kind of put in the crosshairs with some questions around this bill. You did a fine job, by the way, in responding to them, but but they ended up voting it down. And so I think our you know, I think it's important for our educators to understand who was on that committee and what they were saying about the needs the lack of a need for for protections for them.

Paul Stark:

Yeah, they were. Some of the legislators said, Why should we have a special carve out? And I think the answer to that is clear is that individuals working in a school setting have had special treatment in the sense of abusive treatment in particularly over the last few years. We also have particular heightened protections for police officers, firefighters, health care workers, and this seemed to fit and I for the life of me, I can't understand why anybody would be anti protection of educators, all educators, and but yet they've voted it down. So yes, it'd be good to look that up and know who your legislators are, so you can let them know that you support protecting school employees.

Mike Journee:

So again, in this week's hotline email, we will have a whole story about about this, this, this bill and, and a full accounting of the vote count. So folks can go and check that out if they would like to do so. Alright, so another bill that came for guys, this week, that that kind of received rave reviews from everyone was a parental rights rights bill that came forward from and it was it was sponsored by Representative Judy Boyle out of Midvale. And then the superintendent of public instruction, Debbie Crutchfield, and, and this parents rights bill, man, I've heard you say this is this is the parents rights bill of the of the session, probably. And it does a number of things. It there's a whole list of things that it allows parents to do. But kind of the upshot is, is that these are things that most school districts in our state are probably already doing this. It's things like, parents get to review curricular materials. And if they want to withdraw their child from a class, if they don't agree with those materials, notify parents of changes in their child's mental emotional health. Notifying parents about surveys that they're going to administer, notify parents, when a student has been questioned by law enforcement, allow parents to observe classes and other school activities. And then open communication about the student's health and wellness. And I know Matt and Layne, I don't know of any, I mean, I know my my schools, our schools, the schools that my kids gonna go to, they spend a lot of time communicating with us about what's going on. And I've never found any problem with any of these issues.

Layne McInelly:

As an educator, and all the educators that are listening, I think they know that in order to have a successful classroom and a successful learning environment for our students. It's a partnership between the teacher between the paraprofessionals, the parents, and the student. Without one of those components, they're not going to be as successful. And so we want to have that partnership with parents, we want to make sure that the parents are involved and engaged in their students and their child's learning, so that they can have those conversations around the dinner table or they can help them with their homework or they can come in and have a conversation with me. But we know that it's a partnership and when that partnership is successful, the student will be successful.

Mike Journee:

And, and this really just kind of codifies a lot of things that educators are already doing so we've heard

Matt Compton:

reaffirms rights and responsibilities and the greater degree that we can have parents engaged in their stupid the child's education the better.

Mike Journee:

And Sonia Galaviz again, a member of the IEA and a member of this committee also voted in favor when she said the exact same thing you did Layne about about this is a partnership. We want to be partners. And that's why this is this is a good bill.

Layne McInelly:

So and I just want to make sure that people are clear that this is a parental rights bill, but Ultimately, it's about the guardianship. It's a guardian bill because we want to make sure that whoever is helping raise that child has the opportunity to be successful with them and partner with educator, whether it is a parent, grandparent, legal guardian of any kind we're willing to partner with with and work with.

Mike Journee:

That's a fantastic point. There's another bill that we've talked about a couple of times this, there are a couple of bills here that deal with school board elections, Mat, house, Bill 58, and House Bill 71. And altogether, these these bills are intended to eliminate one of the two or the election days that school districts can come forward and have bond or levy elections or school board elections. And then another bill that that would require partisan declaration by candidates. So these bills, but but we've talked about this a couple of times on the podcast already, but one of the reasons why I wanted to talk about this, again is is the importance of these election dates became evident and clear from a an Idaho education news story that was out just yesterday, I believe, that outlined all of the bond and levy elections in the state that are up on the ballot on March 14. And 48 school districts in all are going to be running bond or levy elections on March 14, and it's well over a billion dollars in just as one single day. And if that doesn't show the need, not only for, for these dates for school districts be able to pay the bills, but it also shows a need for reform of how we fund our schools.

Matt Compton:

It shines a pretty significant bright light on how the legislature has historically underfunded schools year over year over year and why continued investments in public education is so important. These are school districts that have to go out for supplemental levies that are no longer supplemental their, their operational levies and the bonds that they need to build new schools or repair existing schools. These are these are significant investments that that the I all education stakeholders have been talking about for for a decade now. And this is probably going to be the single most expensive education. Election Day in Idaho history.

Mike Journee:

Yeah, just for comparison, the same amount, roughly, was voted on through the entire calendar year last year. And now on one day, over a billion dollars last year for the calendar year 2020, to about a billion dollars was was voted on by education by education or by voters Excuse me. And this year in one election, that's going to be out there.

Matt Compton:

And you can see that the legislature is is keenly aware of the cost that this is placing directly on taxpayers at the local district. They're seeking to do away with a couple of election dates, to make it more difficult for districts to pass these sort of levies, they want to put them on on the partisan ballots. And they say it's for increased participation. But this is not the first time they've done this. Many lawmakers have talked about how this is just people know, the district's begging, you know, they're begging their taxpayers over and over and over again. And it's not about begging it's it's really about me the constitutional mandate of investments and public schools.

Paul Stark:

I think it's particularly important to note the strain this puts on property tax owners, you know, because there are those on fixed incomes that are seeing their property taxes go up and up and up. And it's a direct result. We have legislators that campaign on how much they cut taxes, and they cut taxes, but honestly, they're just shifting the burden the taxing burden over to the local property owners, and not really doing their job of funding the public education system in the first instance.

Mike Journee:

Right, it comes back to that decades long chronic underfunding of public education that we talk about, right. It's it's and the fact that that school districts in order to pay the bills in order to fix leaky roofs and in order to pay for education support professionals, and, and and in some cases, pagan teachers. They have to run these levees. And and that's because the state's not meeting its constitutional obligation. So, Matt, tell us real quickly a little bit about what's going on with JFAC, and the budgets. We've talked in the past about how, you know, there's a lot of crazy bills that are coming out right now. And anybody who's been paying attention closely might might feel kind of bad about what's going on. But, but I've been saying that, you know, the good news should be coming later in the session when the JFAC starts talking about budgets, and they're starting to do that.

Matt Compton:

They are. They're starting to talk about budgets. Interestingly, I was looking back at a Last session as to when Jay fac put out the education appropriations and it was March 7, and we're slowly creeping up on March 7 This year, and haven't seen any drafts or, or any communication really about the education appropriations, I anticipate that we're going to see the some of those education budgets set here pretty soon. And that's where we'll see whether or not J fac or the legislature takes the the nod from the governor for that extra $6,300 For every educator, and what increased salaries for classified employees is going to look like. But I think we still have a couple of weeks until that becomes a little clearer.

Mike Journee:

It's interesting. We don't we came into the session, talking all about the September one special session and a 330 million they set aside for K through 12. And we really haven't even it's we're almost we're six weeks in the legislature. I really haven't dealt with that hardly at all at this point. And but but it's coming.

Matt Compton:

Yeah, yep. We'll be talking about that in future podcasts.

Mike Journee:

All right, gentlemen. That's that's all I have for today. So thank you for joining and, and having this conversation. Thanks, Mike. Thanks, Mike. Thanks. Thank you for listening to Idaho education Association's hotline podcast, and this discussion about week six of the 2023 legislature. Thanks as well to lane McAnally, Matt Compton and Paul Stark for joining me. Please watch for future updates about new episodes on a social media channels or sign up for email updates on our website at Idaho eaa.org. I'm Mike journee. And as always, I hope you'll join me in thanking Idaho's public school educators for everything they do for our State students, families and public schools.