Lance Clow (copy)

A 2019 file photo of Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, chairman of the House Education Committee. On Monday, Clow introduced two bills that sought to end the Idaho Board of Education's Common Core Standards.

The Idaho Legislature reconvened the 2021 session Monday and while nearly all the bills introduced were aimed at vaccine mandates, some looked to change Idaho education policy.

The Idaho Press reported two of the 29 bills introduced in the House Ways & Means Committee sought to end the state’s education content standards. All seven bills in the Senate were related to the COVID-19 vaccines, although one pushed by Senate Democrats sought federal funding for COVID-19 testing in schools and employee benefits and reimbursement for various reasons related to COVID-19.

Both the House bills were sponsored by House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and are intended to end the state’s Common Core Standards, which were enacted in 2014. The first bill would discontinue the current state content standards for English language arts, math and science. This will allow the 2020 and 2021 Standards Review Committee’s Idaho Content Standards to be considered as appropriate content replacement, the bill says.

A second bill Clow introduced directs the state Board of Education to adopt and incorporate the draft Idaho Content Standards that were recommended by the 2020 and 2021 Standards Review Committees, dated July 13, 2021.

The bills were sent back to the Ways and Means Committee, which has no plans to reconvene. Any legislation for new standards that moves forward will likely wait until the 2022 session.

Many politicians and far-right groups have opposed the Common Core standards for years, including the Idaho Freedom Foundation and Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin. A report on the Freedom Foundation’s website lists the objections the group has with the standards including its federal origin, science standards teaching the human causes of climate change and its effects on the planet, and English language arts standards that “de-emphasizes student character development and opinions.”

New standards were recommended in a letter that Idaho House and Senate education committee members sent to the Board of Education on March 9, 2020. Some of the recommendations included “emphasizing value-rich, historically important, and uplifting literature (particularly American and English literature),” providing both positive and negative aspects of energy sources in science classes and focusing on age appropriateness for science topics.

“These recommendations are based on input from hundreds of parents and educators across the state since Common Core was implemented. Our concern is that any new standards developed by the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education may not be accepted by parents, educators, administrators, the public, and therefore the legislature,” the letter said.

Another bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum; Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise and Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, requires the expenditure of all federal COVID-19 funds for several purposes, including rapid COVID-19 testing for school personal and students. It was introduced in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

The bill also requires a sick leave bank for all public employees, one-time bonus payments to essential workers, funding for mobile vaccination clinics and in-home vaccinations and reimbursement for those who have to take time off work for various COVID-19-related reasons.

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