Dean Mortimer cropped

Dean Mortimer

The Senate has voted 31-3 in favor of Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer’s resolution to create a legislative interim committee on school content standards. “We know that the Legislature has struggled to find common ground,” Mortimer said. Yet he’s receiving hundreds of emails in support of the current standards from Idaho educators, he said. “We don’t agree on the content standards. So isn’t it imperative that we work together to make every effort to make education better, to find that commonality? I can easily answer yes.”

“I am bringing this resolution in the spirit of compromise to improve education,” Mortimer said.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, spoke in favor of the resolution, though she noted that the current standards “were written by highly skilled Idaho educators, they were taken to the public to review … rewritten to reflect that input, and then finally after they were rewritten, they were brought to the Legislature and we adopted them. And this was a three-year process.”

“I will admit that they were rolled out poorly,” she said. “It was during the recession, there was very little money for professional development. … It’s become an issue that we just can’t seem to get past. So I am in favor of putting together an interim committee to maybe begin this process again, because we really need to have everyone on board, and this debate over Common Core has been in front of us for about eight years now, and it’s time to move forward, do something where we can all get behind it, all support it, and move the education forward in Idaho.”

Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, thanked all those who worked on this, including Mortimer. “This has been a contentious thing for so long,” Hill said. “It’s just, some people just like it or dislike it because of what it’s called. A lot of people don’t understand what the standards are, how we have changed them from the old Common Core standards and so forth. This is a time … (for) coming together. Let’s see what’s best for the students of the state. This senator votes aye.”

This afternoon at 3, the Senate Education Committee, which Mortimer chairs, is scheduled to take up Idaho’s current content standards, which are up for review again along with all state administrative rules due to the Legislature’s failure last year to agree to extend all existing rules, as it usually does each year. Earlier, the House Education Committee voted to dump all the state’s existing standards for math, English language arts and science. That move has no effect unless the Senate committee follows suit.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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