Powerball gets reluctant committee support

Idaho’s “Powerball Bill” is heading to the House floor for a vote.

A half-hearted House State Affairs Committee advanced House Bill 607 – which would allow the Idaho Lottery to remain in a growing international Powerball compact. Education has skin in this game: Over the next decade, Powerball is expected to generate some $200 million in dividends, which will go to public schools, the K-12 Bond Levy Equalization Fund, and the Permanent Building Fund, which funds state and campus capital. projects.

Idaho’s participation in Powerball is not a safe bet, however. The Powerball compact wants to expand beyond the UK and Australia. The legislature must give the green light for the Idaho lottery to remain in this pact.

Last year, House State Affairs rejected a bill allowing Idaho to participate in the international Powerball.

The problem is back this year, as Powerball’s expansion plans were delayed last summer. It is therefore up to the 2022 legislature to make the final decision.

Much of Wednesday’s committee hearing focused on education.

Idaho School Boards Association executive director Misty Swanson said schools rely on their share of Powerball revenue. Citing a recent state report – which provided rough estimates of the state’s multimillion-dollar school construction backlog – Swanson said Powerball’s removal “will only make the problem worse. In progress”.

Lawmakers were lukewarm.

Representative Julianne Young, R-Blackfoot, said she would like to debate the issue of a state-sponsored lottery independent of school funding considerations.

“We use children and education like the poster child to develop the game,” she said.

Rep. Bruce Skaug, R-Nampa, said he’s worried about Idaho entering an international pact. “In my stomach, I don’t like it.”

Even the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, said he was opposed to the game. But, he said, quitting Powerball won’t stop the Idaho lottery; other games would continue.

State Affairs took the unusual step of voting to send the bill to a floor without a recommendation. Typically, committees recommend passage of a bill.

The House could vote on HB 607 in the coming days.

Parent grants bill heads to House

A bill that would create grants for families in Idaho passed the House Education Committee on Wednesday.

The Empowering Parents program would provide families with up to $1,000 per student or $3,000 per household in federal money to cover education expenses, including laptops and speech therapy.

The program is based on the 2020 Strong Families, Strong Students Scholarship Program. And the success of Strong Families Strong Students justifies spending an additional $50 million on family grants, advocates say.

“The program has been a huge success,” Andy Grover, executive director of the Idaho Association of School Administrators, told the committee.

The program would give families with an income of $60,000 or less the first shot at subsidies; then those who earn $75,000 or less annually; then all the families.

“I have worked for many years trying to get additional resources for students who need them the most. We still have a funding formula that doesn’t recognize that, and we still have to work through that,” said co-sponsor Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls. “But it’s a step in the direction of helping families bridge that gap for these students.”

Empowering Parents would be a temporary program unless extended. That would give parents two years to spend funds, and the legislature would have to pass a separate appropriation bill to fund it.

After questions from the legislator, but little hindsight, Senate Bill 1255 passed the committee unanimously. It now heads to the House floor, the last legislative hurdle before the governor can sign it.

Also in House Education: Lawmakers will rewrite a bill expand scholarship eligibility for dual credit individuals, to guard against fears that the bill could enable nepotism.

Senate dyslexia bill moves forward

A bill that would require the State Department of Education to step up its efforts to help students with dyslexia was unanimously approved by the Senate on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 1280 would require schools to:

  • Give the Idaho Reading Indicator, a standardized K-3 test, to fourth and fifth graders.
  • Offer a second screening to K-5 students who are struggling on the reading test, looking for signs of dyslexia.
  • Train teachers to intervene and support students with dyslexia and train those teachers to perform the above screenings.

A group of lawmakers told personal stories of how dyslexia affected their families before voting for the bill. But some have questioned the bill’s approach.

“This bill focuses primarily on the specific areas of learning disabilities of basic reading skills, reading comprehension, and reading fluency,” said Sen. Carrie Semmelroth, D-Boise, holds a master’s degree in education. “One of my concerns with this bill is possible over-emphasis and over-identification in these three areas, focusing on the hallmarks of dyslexia.”

SDE opposes the bill, in part because it provides no additional funding to support new testing and teacher training requirements. The State Department has come up with its own competing invoice at the House Education Committee on Tuesday. This bill would make a variety of increased efforts dependent on increased funding.

Semmelroth and former House Education president Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, both wondered if IRI could serve as an effective filter for dyslexia; House and Senate bills would rely on the IRI.

Still, Semmelroth and VanOrden voted with 31 of their colleagues to support the bill.

Now both the Senate and House versions will be in House Education, where Speaker Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said Tuesday that the two bills will likely need to be reconciled.

School Bus Speed ​​Limit Increase Heads To House

A bill that would increase the maximum speed of school buses allowed to travel to 70 mph is on its way to the House floor.

The House Transport and Defense Committee unanimously passed House Bill 571 Wednesday, which would override a state rule that caps the limit at 65 mph.

Rep. Charlie Shepherd called it “a security bill.”

“It’s an extreme hazard to school buses on the freeway when they’re obstructing traffic,” said Shepherd, R-Pollock.

A State Department of Education 2018 Issue Paper stated the opposite of such proposals and argued that speed limits should not be increased.

“There is ample evidence that this difference in travel speed does not pose a safety risk to school buses or other vehicles. Slower travel speeds reduce the potential severity level of vehicle-to-vehicle collisions involving a school bus, while also reducing fuel consumption,” the newspaper states.

In Idaho, the highest speed limits are 80 mph for passenger cars and 70 mph for tractor-trailers on sections of rural highways.

HB 571 received no pushback from the committee on Wednesday before it was passed.

Master Educator Bonus ‘Grandfather’ Bill Passes House

The House passed a bill that would allow 23 Idaho school administrators to receive their master educator bonuses — bonuses awarded before those educators left the classroom for an administrative position.

It’s kind of a grandfather bill, as the state is phasing out master educator bonuses of $4,000 a year in 2024. Rep. Lance Clow’s bill would only fund bonuses for teachers who have become directors, who would otherwise lose their bonuses.

Twin Falls Republican Rep. Lance Clow’s bill would cost about $191,000 over three years.

It passed the House by a 52-15 vote, with dissenting votes coming from other Republicans. The bill now goes to the Senate.

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