IEA HOTLINE Podcast

Idaho Legislature - Week 10

March 25, 2023 Mike Journee Season 1 Episode 12
Idaho Legislature - Week 10
IEA HOTLINE Podcast
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IEA HOTLINE Podcast
Idaho Legislature - Week 10
Mar 25, 2023 Season 1 Episode 12
Mike Journee

This episode’s topic is Week 10 of the 2023 legislative session. With adjournment likely next week, lawmakers are done with committee hearings and working through a long roster of legislation so they can go home. The Idaho Legislature is winding down its business for 2023 and, absent any last-minute surprises, this session’s outcomes for students, educators and public education promise to be historic. Those bills include pay raises for significant pay raises for educators — IEA members’ top priority for this year — and tellingly do not include any voucher bills. 

Joining today’s conversation are IEA Political Director Chris Parri,  IEA Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and  IEA Executive Director Paul Stark

Show Notes Transcript

This episode’s topic is Week 10 of the 2023 legislative session. With adjournment likely next week, lawmakers are done with committee hearings and working through a long roster of legislation so they can go home. The Idaho Legislature is winding down its business for 2023 and, absent any last-minute surprises, this session’s outcomes for students, educators and public education promise to be historic. Those bills include pay raises for significant pay raises for educators — IEA members’ top priority for this year — and tellingly do not include any voucher bills. 

Joining today’s conversation are IEA Political Director Chris Parri,  IEA Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and  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 on public education, and the policy priorities of ies members, ie members of 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 at the IEA and I'll be your host for this episode of hotline. Today's topic is Week 10 of the 2023 legislative session. With adjournment likely next week, lawmakers are done with committee hearings and working through a long roster of legislation so they can go home. Those bills include significant pay raises for educators IEA members top priority for the year, and tellingly do not include any voucher legislation. joining me for today's conversation, our IEA political director Chris Perry, Associate Executive Director Matt Compton and Executive Director Paul start. Well, gentlemen, thanks for being here today for a quick review of what's been happening at the lobby of legislature. We're in week 10 of the session. And looks like things are wrapping up, we have the committee's are all finished meeting there. They're trying to they're sprinting through bills on this on both House and Senate floors. Things are moving forward. And there's a lot going on. But man, it was really shaping up to be a really strong session, perhaps strong as a weak word for that, for public education. Matt Compton, we have, we have bills coming forward on salaries for educators that are there, and they're waiting for four votes. As we record this, it sounds like this afternoon, there might be a vote in the House, or I'm sorry, in the Senate on that one of those bills. So let's talk a little bit about those.

Matt Compton:

So the public school budgets are made up of seven different appropriations. Three of them are the ones that we're tracking in it deals with teacher pay, and classified pay. And then some of the central services that has discretionary money in it. They've all been assigned bill numbers, as of yesterday, and typically session after session, these are the last bills that are considered by the legislature, they're called go home bills. And it typically the the legislature will take these up as kind of the final measure. And it's because public education makes up well over 50% of the state's budget. And so they put a lot of consideration into it. But we anticipate that the Senate will vote to approve these later this afternoon. And then likely Monday, Tuesday of next week, the House will take them up. The reason that I feel so confident about this is because all of those bills came out of J fac the Joint Finance and appropriations committee, overwhelmingly with support, and there just hasn't been a lot of indication that there's going to be folks who raise a fuss about this, there's obviously going to be those individuals who have voted against every appropriation this year. And they will be held to account on that. But those folks, folks who vote in favor of it, we'll get a round of applause and thank you from educators from across the state.

Mike Journee:

Yeah, that's right. And Paul, now this was one of the governor's top priorities for the legislative session. And, and it's gone pretty well. I think when our members, a good chunk of our members, get together Delegate Assembly in April, they're gonna there's gonna be a lot to celebrate, I think they're gonna be really happy about what's coming through in the salary realm. And so there's gonna be celebration.

Paul Stark:

Yeah, there's lots of so many loads and loads. This has been one for the record books, not only what we were able to achieve, but what didn't happen is equally as important. So I think there's, there's lots to celebrate, and it should give educators a lot more confidence in public education in Idaho.

Mike Journee:

Yeah. Right. So, Chris, one of the things that didn't happen this year, there were seven voucher bills that came forward, probably a new record, I would imagine. And the influence of our members has been key not only in getting salaries to the point where we think that they're going to be going through pretty easily, but but they've been key in defeating all seven of these bills in one way or another. We had three come forward this week. Are well have action taken on this week. Tell us a little about those three bills and and what happened with them?

Chris Parri:

Sure. And first, I don't mean to correct you, Mike, but I think it's week 10,000 of the legislative session. And yes, three ESA voucher bills kind of popped their heads up this week in different kinds of forms, each of them kind of interesting in their own right. So the first one was Senate Bill 1161, which was sponsored by Senator den Hartog,

Mike Journee:

which we've talked about a couple times.

Chris Parri:

Yeah. This is the one that would have taken about half of the funding for empowering parents and turned the empowering, empowering parents grant system which provides micro grants to parents, whether their public school parents, private school, parents, homeschool parents, to invest in education, educational materials in the home. This is one that we got behind last year recognizing that that investments in the home are valuable and support students. However, the bill sponsors this year, turned back around and wanted to undermine that program by adding vouchers into it basically. So we fought against that one pretty hard. It did pass the Senate floor last week on a vote of 19 in favor 15 against and one absent. But as it was headed to the House Education Committee, it became pretty clear that this bill had no path forward either through the House Education Committee or potentially even on the House floor, if even if it didn't make it out of the committee. So the bill sponsors pulled it ahead of that hearing, kind of mercifully. And then there were the two other ones one was put forward by Representative Hawkins. And that one didn't last too long. It was put on the house revenue, revenue and taxation committee agenda. And then pretty quickly, just it wasn't even heard for a print hearing. So that one ended up pretty quick. And then the last one is one sponsored by Senator Ben Adams, which is a tuition tax credit voucher. Basically, you would spend money on private school tuition, and thenmyou would retroactively get that tax credit based on not being in public school the next year, so another one that we lobbied a bit on and have worked against and, to be honest, this one was at the 11th hour and just didn't have a chance to ever be heard by that committee. So we just ran out of time on that one.

Matt Compton:

I think it's really important to to emphasize

Mike Journee:

And there are several key lawmakers involved to punctuate how the quote unquote, school choice movement this this year was supposed to be kind of a slam dunk across the country. I was reading a Fox News article from mid February. And it says the school choice revolution is going pedal to the metal setting the stage for possibly the best year in US history for education, educational empowerment. And they talked about how there were like over 50 pieces of legislation nationwide, and states like Arkansas, Indiana, Idaho, Florida, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming. We're all adopting some kind of school choice or universal voucher program. But what I'd like to do is, you get to carve out Idaho off that list, because we are one of the in that as well. And of course, our members coming and talking very few states that were able to weather this assault on public education. While other states had governors like Governor Abbott in Texas or Governor Sanders Huckabee in Arkansas, who were strong advocates. We here at home actually had a strong advocate for public education in Governor Brad little who was steadfast and put forth a budget in his State of the State that recognize the importance of public schools here in Idaho. with members with lawmakers during lobby day and on all the local lobby days that we've had throughout the year. Hundreds and hundreds of conversations with lawmakers about about pay about vouchers is shaping up to be a really great barring any surprises shaping up to be one of the best sessions that I can remember in the 20 years that I've been watching the legislature.

Chris Parri:

So yeah, all the way from the all the way from the primary elections in 2022, to the general elections in 2022, to the ledge, this legislative session, there's a through line of IEA members taking action, to support pro education candidates, and then pro education policy and to kill bad policy. And it's pretty incredible to take that all three of those major events as a whole and look at how it all kind of fit together to lead to this such a successful legislative session. And not to mention also the special session in September, which was also kind of a an act of political genius for public schools.

Matt Compton:

I was I was thinking that Chris and I were marveling this this morning about, we would send out a text message to members saying reach out to your lawmakers and within an hour or two hours, we would have 100 to 250 responses in in just a matter of, of hours. And it's those voices. It's those communications. It's those relationships that were developed during Lobby Day. And that at the local lobby days that had been so effective during this legislative session. Yeah. And educators have so much free time, right? Yeah. And these are all personalized emails. We always emphasize that in all of our online actions, like make sure you're you're personalizing your emails, we don't want duplicates. We don't want form emails, and they're taking time out of their day to to share their why Yeah, sharing their why this is why it's important for me, my students in my class, some of my colleagues, and it's really, really effective.

Chris Parri:

Awesome.

Mike Journee:

Well, Paul, there was another bill that came forward this week there another library bill that was out there that's been been happening in and there was some really interesting testimony around that from people who take an interest in education policy. And in particular, you noted the, the Idaho Freedom Foundation and a little bit of a hide-the-ball game that they might be playing with, with with the way that they testify on these different bills.

Paul Stark:

Yeah, a little bit of duplicity is what I'd call it, because there was a bill that came up that had to do with enabling filters, content filters for web browsers, on cell phones when they're activated. And in that situation, the Idaho freedom Foundation's Communication Director stood up, and basically said, you know, we shouldn't have the government doing this, you know, this is the parents responsibility, which, you know, in some part is true, you know, the parents do play a role in obviously, in their children's actions and what what they do with content they receive, but it's the direct opposite of what they've said about this library bill, the library bills are, well publicized about, you know, content restrictions. And strangely, the Idaho Freedom Foundation in those situations, desperately wanted the government to come in and replace the parent and, and make the decisions about what content could be involved. So the duplicity is, is really frankly, very interesting. But the library bill, we hope, it's, it's pending as we sat on the on the 14th order, and we'll see where it ends up. But, you know, it's just one of these never ending culture wars that, you know, they're trying to find leverage. It's interesting that a couple years ago, it was all about critical race theory and all about what happening in public schools, and the lieutenant governor and other people had these hearings, which found nothing, absolutely nothing well, that they figured out that well is kind of dry. And so now they're going after higher ed, and it's all about diversity and inclusion, higher ed and, and the boogeyman that they see all around them, never materializes, because here in Idaho are sensible, and we listen to our communities and things aren't what they're being represented.

Matt Compton:

I've said this before. And I'll continue to say it that these campaigns that serve to discredit public schools are are all part of the rationalization for things like vouchers that, that the institutions that we trust Public Schools libraries, have become some kind of boogeyman that's indoctrinating students or exposing them to harmful materials. And what that's supposed to do is make the public lose trust, and then divest their tax dollars from that and send it to private or parochial schools. And in states across the country, it's worked. But at this point, we've been able to stave off those those assaults and threats. Because we're kind of speaking rationally we have become the rational oasis in in Idaho politics where, as long as as we maintain our truth, and integrity, the both the people and lawmakers listen and respect.

Chris Parri:

And there's, I think there's a huge missing piece of the calculation on the you know, the side of the people pushing vouchers and, you know, pushing vouchers with one side of their mouth, and then these crazy conspiracy theories with the other side of their mouth all working together to kind of privatize public education. The miscalculation was that there would be no blowback on them, that their credibility would be stellar throughout this whole process. But the harder they attack public schools, the clearer it becomes that these folks are not out to support people of Idaho, and not in a trusted ally when it comes to legislation. So you watch their influence Wayne and Wayne and more and more educators or legislators come out to kind of stand up for public schools and stand against the kind of inflammatory rhetoric and straight up lies put out by that side. So when you watch the debate that takes place, both in committee and on the on the House or Senate floor, you're starting to see a real divide, particularly in the Republican party where people are getting a little punchy. And they're they're taking truth back. While I see that they might be losing a little bit of the decorum. Folks are frustrated by the outlandish things that people on kind of the alt right are saying even on the Senate floor, where they're being called, called to the floor for the comments that they're making, and their colleagues are just not having any of it.

Paul Stark:

If I can add one last thing I know we've been talking about this, but we see over and over again in polling and in really every evidence we'll get that public, local public school teachers and educators are trusted. Their communities actually loves their local schools, and they do trust their local educators. So anybody listening to this, this is all kind of this legislative fight but we should understand at the local level oOur Communities support our schools. And we've seen that in the passage of levies and bonds, we see that in, you know, just pulling about opinions, about educators. And so I don't think anybody should fret at the local level, you're still very beloved by your local community.

Mike Journee:

So I wanted to touch really quickly on, you know, there have been a couple of bills come forward this year in relation to school elections. And the elections that are held in various months throughout the year. We just had an election in March, and there's another one coming up in May. And we've already got members in at least one major, one major local, looking at that, and really drilling down and trying to to overcome a loss in the March election to get funding for our schools. Again, the fact that we have to have these elections at all speaks volumes about how public education is funded in the state. But but our members are really rallying. It sounds like up in quarter lane. Are these happening, and we've got a number of other ones on the on the ballot. Right, Chris?

Chris Parri:

You bet. Yeah. So the quarter, Elaine coralayne ran two levees in March. And unfortunately, both of them failed. But they're coming back in May with a different ask just one Levy. And yeah, the the local members up there are doing a great job activating members and allies in the community and organizing to make sure that, you know, we're knocking doors and making phone calls and doing all the work that it would take to to get something like this across the line, because it is a dire situation up there in North Idaho. It's quarter lane, you know, Lakeland as well. And a few other I'm sure we'll see, we'll see a number of districts that Oh, definitely lost in March, probably coming back and re And then, of course, you know, our members will be be heavily involved in those in their in their local in their local areas.

Mike Journee:

And then, of course, we're looking forward in November to school board elections and things and they get involved in those as well.

Chris Parri:

So yeah, I mean, I think for any any members listening, and Paul has been really good about pointing this out as well that since the school districts themselves can't advocate much for these levies and bonds, it really does fall to the to the local association in these areas to take it upon themselves to do the the work of persuasion, basically the like the here's why this is valuable, you know, not just the kind of upfront fact stuff, but also the the persuasive language that you need to do and get on doors and all the other stuff, it kind of does fall to the teachers.

Matt Compton:

And the reason that we saw the failure up and failures up in north Idaho is that you have this active Republican Central Committee that notably has endorsed white nationalists in the past that are actively trying to, to, to defund public schools. And then when the the school says, if we don't pass the levy, we're not going to be able to have sports, that are kind of whining and crying that the football team or the basketball team or the wrestling team or the cheerleading squad isn't going to be funded. And these are the these are the real repercussions for when you want to defund schools is that the first thing that's going to go are the extracurriculars that are so popular in the community. And I look forward to our members in these, these districts highlighting those losses.

Chris Parri:

It's interesting, because that central committee up there, too, has endorsed some levies and those ones can fail too. And I think what we're seeing is a loss of control, kind of across the board on that side of things, that they've unleashed this kind of whirlwind of lies and paranoia that they even they can't rein back in. It's a really bad situation.

Mike Journee:

And and all the chaos at North Idaho College is tied up in with this as well. I mean, and we have members in the Idaho legislature who come directly from that conversation that's happening up there as well and the challenges that they're bringing that kind of mentality to to some of the things that happen in the legislature so that's it's it's it matters and it's big deal. And on a high note, we had we had the educator, the Idaho Teacher of the Year, Karen Lauritzen at the at the State House this week, she she did a presentation to the House and Senate Education committees about retaining educators and the importance of retaining educators. She did a fantastic job. She's a wonderful woman and a great a great teacher, proud IEA member. And she she represented the education community well. She talked a lot about...what really struck me was she mentioned that her message was what she heard from her colleagues and what they wanted her to tell the lawmakers and It all sounded very familiar. It was there's a lot of things that our members have been telling us for a long time that she brought up. And one thing in particular, I thought that was really important that she brought up was, she said, we need to be able to teach social emotional learning. We need to be able to talk and teach our youngsters about how to regulate their emotions, about how to have social interactions and do the things that we need to do. And that's become a sore point for many of our members who are thinking about leaving the profession, those opportunities to be able to really engage with our members. And she talked about funding, she talked about all the things that we've talked about on this podcast many times and talked and heard from our members. And she did a great job. You guys have any other thoughts about what about what you hear from her?

Matt Compton:

You know, I had really hoped that this legislature would take up like a social, emotional or behavioral health as an issue, because of what we've seen over the last handful of years coming out of the COVID pandemic, and what educators are experiencing, particularly with the lack of adults in the building, the too few classified employees that we have. And instead of really championing the needs of students in the classroom, we had seven pieces of legislation that would have allowed vouchers to defund public school. So parents could, you know, fund the tuition for private and parochial schools, there was no attention given to the students in the classroom. And that's just extraordinarily disappointing that our legislature when given an opportunity to take on such a significant issue that we've been talking about all session prior to this session, it is what our members shared with lawmakers during Lobby Day. And there was just a complete total failure to act.

Chris Parri:

It's so nice to have someone like Karen Lauritsen come in, and have the courage to say to lawmakers, that social emotional learning is a needed priority in our schools and that it is valuable students, it's not some wild conspiracy theory...

Mike Journee:

Not a dirty word.

Chris Parri:

To have someone come up and be able to say that to them, I think is part and parcel to why I am members are so important to have in that building. They aren't shy about the realities of what's happening in the classroom. I've talked to many legislators over the past two months or 10,000 weeks or whatever, about how critical and impactful these behavioral issues are, like addressing these behavioral issues would be to our teachers and, and support staff and administrators and everyone is a systemic problem. And legislators I think are starting to wake up to that it is disappointing. We didn't see legislation this year. But I'm so encouraged by the conversations that we've had, and from an IEA members like like Karen, who can come down here and and really speak truth to power

Matt Compton:

Karen is a remarkable powerhouse. She's a massive advocate for both the profession and the students in her classroom. And all the while she's working on her PhD. I mean, this is what

Mike Journee:

she's she's co president of her local. She I mean, she's she's so heavily engaged in this feeds and breathes this stuff.

Matt Compton:

And so it's really fantastic. IEA members truly, truly care about the students in the classroom and the profession.

Mike Journee:

Yeah. Well guys, that's all I have for today. Thanks for joining me again.

Paul Stark:

Thanks, Mike.

Chris Parri:

Yeah, thanks, man.

Mike Journee:

Thank you for listening to Idaho Education Assocation's HOTLINE podcast. Thanks as well to my colleagues, Chris PerrI, Matt Compton and Paul Stark for the conversation. 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 education.