Members of the Idaho House of Representatives voted Thursday to give students with "experimental" school schedules more time for religious instruction through their high school's release time program.
Jason Hancock, representing the Idaho Department of Education, presented the bill to members of the House Education Committee Tuesday that would change one word in state code to allow for greater use of release time in certain Idaho high schools. Hancock told lawmakers that 19 high schools in the state use a trimester class system, which prohibits students from having release time periods five days per week. Trimester systems typically feature fewer classes with longer class periods. State code requires that those students who participate in release time miss no more than five class periods a week and no more than 165 hours per school year, a requirement which prohibits those students who attend schools using the trimester system from being able to attend religious classes five days per week.
The operative word that the legislation would target in current law is the word “and,” which would be changed to “or” if the legislation is enacted. Under the new bill, students who participate in release time would be allowed to miss five class periods per week or 165 hours per year. The word “or” in the legislation ensures that those schools that have longer classes periods will be able to offer release time classes each day of the week.
The bill would not change any graduation standards for students, noted Hancock.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett, said the bill would give schools more flexibility in offering release time for students.
The measure passed 69-0 and now heads to the Senate.
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