Lawmakers aim to reject, replace Idaho education standards
| January 16, 2022 1:00 AM
BOISE (AP) — A panel of Idaho lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation to reject the math, science and English standards currently used to make sure Idaho's more than 300,000 K-12 students are meeting specific criteria and replace them with new ones.
Backers of current standards say they're needed to keep Idaho students competitive, while opponents say they make kids lose interest in learning and it's nearly impossible for parents to help them with homework.
"We believe that these standards are good standards," Republican Rep. Lance Clow, who chairs the House Education Committee and introduced the two pieces legislation, said of the proposed replacements. "They are not earth-shaking changes to what's expected in the classroom. And, in our opinions, there would be minimum requirements to change any of our testing."
The same committee tried to kill the standards in 2020, but that effort failed in the Senate. The main piece of legislation introduced Thursday to scrap the current standards is a concurrent resolution that must be approved by both the House and the Senate, but does not need the governor's signature.
In past years, politics has been part of the equation in arguments to reject Idaho's standards, called the Idaho Content Standards. They are heavily based on Common Core standards and have been referred to by that name.
The Common Core standards are benchmarks adopted by more than 40 states to describe what students should know after completing each grade. The standards were developed by the National Governors Association but became a frequent target of Republicans after the Obama administration pushed states to adopt them.
In general, opponents contend they are a federal program with sometimes inappropriate curriculum being forced on states while allowing some companies to profit at the expense of Idaho school kids who aren't achieving better results.
The replacement standards House Education Committee has proposed have already been written and are available for public viewing.
In addition to the resolution scrapping the current standards, the committee introduced a bill that if approved by the House and Senate and signed by Republican Gov. Brad Little would force the State Board of Education to advance the new standards through the state's arcane administrative rules process so they could be in place by 2024.
Clow said he expected the new draft standards to go through the administrative rules process last year. But changing the education standards requires a predicted financial cost, and the drafts didn't contain that so it couldn't go through the rules process for approval. That led Clow to introduce the legislation Thursday.
If the resolution scrapping the old standards were to pass this year without that bill passing, the state would have no standards in place.
Clow, in an interview with The Associated Press following the committee meeting, said that if existing standards are killed and the proposed bill becomes law, school officials could use the draft standards immediately and not wait until 2024.
"These standards are out there," he said. "You can start using them right now, as soon as the law goes into effect."
Clow said he expects to hold public hearings on the legislation in a few weeks.