Idaho State Capitol

Idaho State Capitol

BOISE -- The Senate Education Committee rejected the House repeal of the Idaho Content Standards in a mere 30 minutes during Wednesday’s meeting, Feb. 12. After over a month of public testimony and lawmaker deliberation, the standards are right back where they started.

Idaho’s Content Standards of English language arts, Math, and Science loomed over the House Education Committee for the better part of three weeks eventually resulting in a vote to repeal the standards in their entirety. 

On Monday, Feb. 10, Senate Education Committee Chairman Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls) proposed a resolution that would create an interim committee to study the standards and potentially recommended replacements. Instead of the overhauling repeal, Sen. Mortimer suggested a process that allows the standards and testing to undergo the usual process of public hearings, agency revisions, and input from content experts.

The resolution was sent to the floor that afternoon and passed the Senate on Wednesday.

“The legislature needs to come together and develop a process, a timeline, and a direction for the creation and implementation of new content standards that all Idaho can get behind,” said Mortimer on the Senate floor. “A foundation that will promote advanced learning, that will challenge our students and parents, that will encourage their participation and acceptance of their responsibilities.”

Interim committees provide a forum for in-depth discussions of issues that can arise in upcoming sessions. These committees are created by a legislative council, including both House and Senate minority and majority leaders. For some lawmakers Mortimer’s proposed interim committee proposed does not provide a foreseeable solution.

“Interim committees don’t really seem to accomplish a whole lot,” said Representative Judy Boyle (R-Midvale), a member of the House Education Committee. “It’s pretty restrictive being on an interim committee, I’ve been on a lot of them and I’ve always thought this is a complete waste of time. I’m not voting for that interim committee when it comes over.”

First elected to the legislature in 2008, Boyle saw the initial introduction of Common Core in the early 2010s. Rep. Boyle made the original motion in the House committee to repeal the standards, she claims that the standards were not the saving grace that the state thought it would be.

“I have heard through the years how awful these are for kids, for parents, for grandparents, for teachers,” said Boyle. “We need to look at something different, this is a failure absolutely, it was never nationally benchmarked like we were told, it was never just piloted, it was just lock, stock and barrel.”

While the Senate committee vote affirms the standards, it was not an indication committee members support the current language. The content standards go beyond the daily classroom lesson, they guide teachers’ overall goals, influence curriculum choices, and are used to measure students’ achievement scores through national assessments. For many lawmakers, the fear that the standards could be thrown out without a replacement plan could cause chaos throughout the state.

“It’s important that we have continuity for not only our students but our educators. In order to repeal something, you have to have something to replace it. That’s not something that can be done in a short time frame.” said Sen. Mortimer. “From the action that we took on Wednesday I think it’s clear that we felt like it was important to keep our current Idaho Content Standards in place until we can come to an agreement and develop new content standards, new testing, and new curriculum.”

Mortimer said he couldn’t take full credit for the resolution, and that the idea initially came from the House. According to Mortimer a resolution calling for an interim committee had been previously drafted by the Chairman of the House Education Committee Lance Clow (R-Twin Falls), among other House committee members. After visiting with Rep. Clow for several weeks prior to the House decision, Sen. Mortimer felt it was best to present the resolution.

“I was very concerned with the House action because I don't believe that it was as thoughtful from the standpoint of keeping a process in place for our education students and our professionals,” said Mortimer. “In my opinion...the recommendations need to be a joint effort not only between the Senate and the House, but also all of the educational stakeholders.”

In the Senate Education meeting, committee members were quick to point out their awareness of contrasting perspectives around the content standards. Legislators such as Senator Steven Thayn (R-Emmett), Senator Ward-Engelking (D-Boise), Senator Lent (R-Idaho Falls), and Senator Den Hartog (R-Meridian) said their decision was not intended to ignore the voices of the Idaho people who disagreed with the standards. According to Senator Thayn, the Senate Education Committee only had three choices; do nothing and allow the rules go back into place, agree completely with the House, or adopt the current standards and more forward with review.

“I appreciate what the House has done, however they only did the first part of the process, they identified some of the issues they wanted to address,” said Senator Thayn. “They didn’t put into place a process to get this done, and that’s what I would like to see.”

This process is what Mortimer hopes to stimulate through the resolution. To create a fluid transition from one set of standards to the next giving lawmakers, state agencies, educators, and citizens the ability to collectively create new standards.

“The best way to get something done is to begin, let’s begin,” said Mortimer.

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