House committee prepares to replace education standards

by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports 

The House Education Committee introduced two new pieces of legislation Thursday to replace the state’s K-12 content standards for math, English language arts and science. The move comes after years of legislative battles over ties to controversial Common Core standards.

Chairman Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, first floated the bills during the reconvened 2021 session in November, but they did not receive a hearing at that time.

The first, HCR 27, is a concurrent resolution that would formally reject the existing content standards

Because the education content standards are contained in administrative rules – rather than in statute – lawmakers cannot write or amend them directly. The legislature can only reject sections of the rules wholesale through a concurrent resolution passed by both the House and Senate. 

“I’ve been reluctant to do that because it doesn’t replace [the standards with] anything,” Clow said Thursday. 

He and other lawmakers said they have focused on removing Common Core standards in recent years due to complaints from parents and constituents. Clow said rather than students being required to demonstrate four different methods of division on a math test, for example, they should be free to use the method that works best for them and move on to other lessons.

The House Education Committee has attempted to reject the state standards in the past, but those efforts have typically been stymied in the Senate.

Instead, lawmakers in 2020 directed the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education to rewrite the content standards. 

Two years later, Idaho Education News reports, those newly developed standards haven’t been adopted yet because they lack a detailed fiscal note explaining the costs of adopting them, according to a State Board of Education spokesperson.

The second piece of legislation introduced on Thursday, HB 437, would direct the state to officially adopt the new standards by 2024, and require any future content standards for those subjects to be created through the negotiated rulemaking process.

“I don’t care how by 2024 they get there, but we need to get there,” Clow said.

Democratic lawmakers on the committee expressed concern at the possibility of leaving Idaho schools without any math, English and science standards if the legislature ends up rejecting the existing standards but not passing the bill that directs adoption of the new standards.

Clow said that even without state-level standards in place, schools and teachers would still be able to rely on their existing curricula until the new standards are finalized and implemented.

“They are not earth-shaking changes to what’s expected in the classroom,” he said.

Clow said he would not hold a public hearing on the bills for at least two or three weeks. He wants to give the public enough time to examine them – and the existing and rewritten versions of the content standards – before offering testimony to the committee. 

“I won’t rush this through,” Clow said.

Those sentiments were echoed by committee vice chairman Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, who urged the public not to let the politics around Common Core get in the way of crafting new standards for the state.

“Please don’t weigh in with strong opinions without having done some research,” Kerby said. “That is really important in this issue.”

Idaho Education News also reports that Senate Education Committee chairman Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, supports both pieces of legislation.

The bills would only affect standards for math, English language arts and science. The state also has content standards for arts and humanities, computer science, health education, information and communication technology, physical education and social studies.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on Jan. 14 to reflect assigned bill numbers.

<strong>Logan Finney</strong> | Associate Producer
Logan Finney | Associate Producer

Logan Finney is a North Idaho native with a passion for media production and boring government meetings. He grew up skiing, hunting and hiking in the mountains of Bonner County and has maintained a lifelong interest in the state’s geography, history and politics. Logan joined the Idaho Reports team in 2020 as a legislative session intern and stayed to cover the COVID-19 pandemic. He was hired as an associate producer in 2021 and they haven’t been able to get rid of him since. 

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