The Idaho State Board of Education has taken a stand against legislation that would reduce local control in school districts across the state.

During its meeting in Boise on Thursday, the board unanimously approved a motion that opposes any additional restrictions on levies, bonds or school calendars during the 2020 legislative session.

Board members expressed concern over bills that would require school districts to wait 11 months before holding another bond election after a failed attempt, would require districts to start the school year after Labor Day, and would reduce school district elections to the months of May and November.

“My first encompassing thought is the board has always and will continue to support local control in every aspect,” board member David Hill said.

Board member Linda Clark said restricting a district’s ability to rerun a failed bond attempt could have a “catastrophic impact” on a school district. Clark said it often takes two or three attempts before a bond measure is successful.

The board originally planned to oppose or endorse specific pieces of legislation, but later broadened its approach after some board members said they felt uncomfortable taking a position on measures they didn’t have the chance to review in-depth beforehand.

The board also formally adopted Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s “Our Kids, Idaho’s Future” task force recommendations, which aim to provide a blueprint for K-12 education over the next five years. The recommendations include the improvement of literacy in grades kindergarten through third, providing greater access to all-day kindergarten, building out the teacher career ladder to improve salaries for veteran teachers, training teachers to address social and emotional issues in students, and creating more flexibility for school districts to use state funds to address local needs.

In other business, the board:

Approved a motion that allows the University of Idaho to issue new revenue bonds of about $58 million. According to Brian Foisy, UI’s vice president for finance and administration, the move will allow the university to refund its existing revenue bonds of $23 million at favorable interest rates, and will provide UI with approximately $35 million to complete the construction of its ICCU Arena.

Approved a request from UI to install three microturbines at its steam plant. The project is estimated to cost $3.3 million. The addition of the microturbines would allow UI to generate 13 percent of the electricity load of the Moscow campus, resulting in a savings of around $359,000 annually.

The board adopted recommendations that will launch regional career technical education advisory committees across the state. The committees will engage employers to ensure the programs offered by area institutions reflect the workforce of that region.

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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