Kevin Richert

Idaho Education News Reporter

Kevin Richert is an education reporter with Idaho Education News, a non-profit news source focused on education policy in Idaho.

Idaho Ed News

In 2015-16, legislators earmarked $16.1 million to reward teachers who take on leadership roles.

Lawmakers want these ongoing “leadership premiums” to go to select teachers who take on added responsibilities. Yet 19 districts gave a share of the money to at least 90 percent of their teaching staff.

Lawmakers also wanted eligible teachers to receive a significant bonus — writing an $850 minimum into state statute. Eighteen districts and charter schools awarded smaller premiums anyway. The smallest was $75.

Idaho Ed News

For 140 students in Cassia County, the school day doesn’t end with the afternoon bell. And the school year continues past spring.

Idaho Ed News

For school districts across Idaho, a $709 million election day looms.

At least 45 of Idaho’s 115 school districts will seek bond issues, plant facilities levies or supplemental levies on March 14, according to Idaho Education News research. The bottom line: At least $709.2 million in ballot measures are on ballot.

Under Idaho law, school districts can run ballot measures on four election days: in March, May, August and November.

Why the logjam on March 14? Timing is certainly a factor.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

On Feb. 9, House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding convinced the House Local Government Committee to introduce a proposal to reduce Idaho’s two-thirds supermajority.

And that’s as far as it’s likely to go. Erpelding has been told his proposal will not get a hearing. By his count, there have been 11 attempts to reduce the supermajority since 1990, and none have made it through the Legislature.

“I guess I can get in line,” Erpelding, D-Boise, said Friday.

Idaho Ed News

Sen. Dean Mortimer has a $20.3 million plan to help schools cover health insurance costs.

Education groups are split on the idea. Depending on who you listen to, Mortimer’s plan could help schools attract and keep teachers. Or, it could exacerbate Idaho’s teacher shortage.

At some point, the Senate Education Committee will vote on the idea.

Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, uses some complicated math to construct his Senate Bill 1096.

Idaho Ed News

House Speaker Scott Bedke has joined 140 GOP officials in endorsing Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial choice for education secretary.

Bedke co-signed a letter calling DeVos “an advocate and ally for all children.” The letter was signed by state school superintendents, lieutenant governors and legislators from all 50 states. Bedke was the lone Idahoan to sign on — and said he did so at the urging of the Republican National Committee.

Idaho Ed News

Idaho’s average teacher salary has increased by slightly more than 5 percent since 2015, when the state adopted a five-year plan to boost pay.

Like many averages, this number tells only part of the story.

In 26 districts and charters across Idaho, average salaries increased by more than 10 percent. In 19 districts and charters, the average actually decreased — which happens when experienced teachers retire or resign, and entry-level teachers take their place.

Idaho Ed News

While Idaho distributes most of its K-12 dollars based on student population, its literacy dollars are an exception.

The state uses Idaho Reading Indicator test scores to determine where to spend its $11.25 million in literacy money.

Idaho Ed News

In Erika Carpenter’s second-grade class, a handful of students are working on the basics of reading. They are sounding out letters, one by one, in small words: real words and nonsense words alike.

Down the hall at Boise’s Koelsch Elementary School, kindergartners are working on similar drills. The second-graders are trying to catch up — and there is no way to rush them along. The best way to bridge the gap is through constant and time-consuming repetition.

Idaho Ed News

As Idaho embarks on a new multimillion dollar attempt to help at-risk readers, recent test results tell an old story.

Once again, more than four in 10 kindergarten through third-grade students showed up for fall classes reading below grade level. This translates to 34,949 students statewide.

Idaho Ed News

Idaho’s supplemental levy bill has hit an all-time record this year.

Property taxpayers will shell out $188.8 million in voter-approved supplemental levies in 2016-17 — up from $186.6 million in 2015-16.

The previous high-water mark was $188.1 million in 2013-14, as Idaho schools were digging out from the aftereffects of the Great Recession.

But the rising supplemental levy bill comes after Gov. Butch Otter and the Legislature approved 7.4 percent funding increases for K-12 for the past two successive years.

Wade Morgen / Flickr Creative Commons

While Idaho’s college go-on rates continue to lag, Idaho’s college enrollment numbers are trending upward.

From spring 2015 to spring 2016, Idaho college enrollment increased by 3.2 percent, according to a National Student Clearinghouse report.

The Idaho numbers defy the national trends; overall, enrollment dropped by 1.3 percent in this same time period. Idaho’s 3.2 percent increase also ranked fourth in the nation, trailing only New Hampshire, Utah and Arizona.

Idaho Ed News

The state has divvied up its $11.25 million earmarked to boost elementary reading skills.

And once again, the payments illustrate the scope of Idaho’s literacy challenge.

This fall, Idaho school districts and charter schools will receive money in hopes of helping nearly 37,000 kindergarten through third-grade students catch up in reading.

Idaho Ed News

Idaho students topped the national average in a 2015 standardized science test.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tested fourth-, eighth- and 12th-graders in science — and on Thursday morning, NAEP released state results for fourth and eighth grades. NAEP tests are not given in all schools in Idaho or elsewhere, but are instead administered to a sample of U.S. schools.

The Idaho highlights:

AP

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have found plenty to talk about in two testy, nationally televised debates.

But K-12 hasn’t made its way through the noise.

And there’s no guarantee Wednesday night’s third and final debate will be any different.

So, if the two major party candidates were forced to debate K-12 topics, what would it sound like? To get a sense of how a K-12 debate might play out, Idaho Education News gleaned comments from the candidates’ websites and media interviews.

Question: What letter grade would you give the nation’s schools?

Mark Ramsay / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho’s 2014-15 graduation rate again fell well below the national average — but the numbers showed some signs of improvement.

Idaho’s ranking moved up, slightly, and the state’s graduation rate is nudging closer to the national average.

Idaho’s 78.9 percent graduation rate ranked No. 39 nationally, according to figures released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Idaho Ed News

If the 2017 Legislature wants to add another $100 million or so to the K-12 budget, it looks like the money will be there.

On Tuesday morning, legislative budget-writers started looking over some of the numbers that will define the session that will begin in early January. And while their counterparts in other states are facing the prospect of spending cuts, Idaho lawmakers could have ample tax revenues on hand.

Idaho Ed News

The State Board of Education wants to crack down on bad teacher evaluation data.

Specifically, the board is looking at imposing fines against school superintendents who deliberately send false data to the state.

The board gave the idea its preliminary approval Monday morning — during a  meeting that was held via conference call. Reporters received word of the meeting only a few hours ahead of time.

Board members endorsed adding language on teacher evaluation data to the career ladder law — the state’s five-year plan to boost teacher salaries.

Districts across the state will collect at least $7.7 million in “emergency” property taxes — money designed to cover the costs of growth.

In school funding parlance, the additional taxes are known as emergency levies. School districts qualify for emergency levies if their preliminary fall student numbers are up from the preceding year. School boards can pass an emergency levy without voter approval.

And for districts in the state’s growth areas, the emergency levy is a perennial tax of sorts — even though trustees can only approve the tax for one year at a time.

Idaho Ed News

The state does not owe back payments to vendors on the defunct Idaho Education Network project, according to Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

And Wasden says the vendors — Education Networks of America and CenturyLink — must return the millions of dollars they received for the mothballed broadband project.

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