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Senator wants full Legislature to sign off on future multi-state education programs

Senator wants full Legislature to sign off on future multi-state education programs

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
February 11, 2014
[post_thumbnail] Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, wants legislative approval before the state joins in any multi-state education consortium dealing with testing, curriculum and data.

A member of the Senate Education Committee has proposed legislation that would require full Senate and House approval for any future endeavors that may require the Gem State's school students to be involved with national groups and federal government agencies.

Sen. Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, in presenting his proposal, told fellow committee members that "this would impact our future, going forward, and not programs that are currently in place."

While not naming the program specifically, Fulcher's proposal nonetheless arises at a time of controversy surrounding the national Common Core Academic Standards initiative.

"If passed, this legislation would require that the Legislature ratify by statute any effort of the Idaho Department of Education to collaborate with any multi-state consortium or the federal government as it pertains to student testing, curriculum and data," Fulcher said.

After Fulcher presented his legislative proposal, Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, chair of the committee commented that "I have spoken to Sen. Fulcher about this previously. I have problems with the constitutionality of this and the balance of powers on this. We will be discussing this in committee in the days ahead."

After the committee hearing, Fulcher reiterated to IdahoReporter.com that his legislative proposal was focused on future endeavors with Idaho students and not on current educational programs. "This bill may, however, force a discussion about our state's commitment to the SBAC (Common Core) testing system," he said. 

The Common Core agenda, re-branded "Idaho Core" by its Gem State supporters last summer, is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Education and more than 40 states to impose unified grade-level academic standards for K-12 public education students.  Along with adopting the same academic standards, most of the states participating in the agenda are all using the same student testing system, known as the "Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium."

In Idaho, the decision to participate in the Common Core agenda was never put before the full Legislature, but rather the choice was made through what is known as the "rules" process, meaning that only the members of the House and Senate education committees had a vote on the matter.

Last month, Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, a member of the Senate Education Committee, told IdahoReporter.com  that "I support higher standards but I'm not ready to support Common Core," and suggested that it may be time for the full Senate and House to deliberate on the matter.  

Last week, in an exclusive interview with Idaho Reporter.com, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna noted that Idaho was one of only four states that considered any input at all from its Legislature in deciding to sign on to the Common Core agenda.

When asked if he believed that the full Legislature needs to reconsider the matter, Luna replied that "we used the same process of adopting the Idaho core standards that we have used when we adopted standards back in 2002. If people think that that process needs to be expanded, then I don't have any problem with that conversation, but I think we need to understand what the constitutional responsibilities are of the State Board of Education and of the Legislature. Really, it's the executive branch versus the legislative branch, and the proper balance there. The Idaho Department of Education is officially an extension of the executive branch of the state government. I think it's important for people to know that we did not sidestep the process (in adopting the Common Core initiative) we've used over and over in the past." 

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