Mortimer hopes to lead Senate education committee

Sen. Dean Mortimer hopes to become the next chairman of the Idaho Senate’s education committee.

The Idaho Falls Republican believes his eight years of experience dealing with education issues has prepared him to lead the committee.

As committee chairman, Mortimer would control what bills come before the body, and at what time — giving him broad discretion to set priorities for school legislation. But Mortimer said he would use that power sparingly, should he be named chairman.

“As a general rule, I will listen to the will of the committee,” Mortimer said. “The chairman, in my opinion, is still a head of a committee. He’s not an all-in-one act. I think that discretion (to keep a bill from hitting a committee agenda) is used extremely sparingly. As things come through, generally they are sounded out.”

The chairman’s post was left vacant with the primary defeat of Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene.

Committee chairmen will be chosen in December, following election of the Senate leadership.

Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, has held the Senate’s top leadership post since 2011. While Hill said he was impressed with Mortimer’s skill, and dedication to education issues, he would not speculate on who he will name to the post — assuming he’s re-elected president pro tem.

Mortimer is vice-chairman of the education committee. He also serves on Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s education task force. Mortimer serves on the task force committee that soon will examine teacher licensure and tenure.

As vice-chairman, Mortimer has helped craft the education budget for the past six years. He supports continuing to increase funding to state schools to make up ground following deep cuts made in the wake of the 2008 recession.

“Education funding … has to continue to increase,” he said.

Mortimer also supports the Idaho Core Standards.

“I support the standards from the standpoint that they are an increase, a step up from where we have been,” he said. “I believe it is important that we increase the standards of what we are requiring our students to do.”

Mortimer said he would not endorse the standards if they were administered at the federal level.

“We set our standard, and our standard is an Idaho Core Standard,” he said.

However, Mortimer said the Smarter-Balanced Assessment Consortium test needs to be revisited.

“The feedback that I’m getting is that the SBAC testing this year has been somewhat questionable, not only from the standpoint of the test but also the way they were administered,” he said. “We’ve got to look back at the test and make sure it is measuring what we want to test.”

Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 542-6751.