BOISE, Idaho — New legislation to address parent concerns about the K-12 curriculum by bringing them to the forefront of school district decision-making passed out of committee.
The bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Judy Boyle from Midvale, was approved by the House Education Committee in a 9-6 vote. While predominantly supported on party lines, Republican Rep. Gary Marshall from Idaho Falls crossed over to oppose the legislation.
If signed into law, the bill would mandate school districts create a 12-person curriculum adoption committee anytime educational materials are changed. Currently, Idaho Code does not require districts to form a committee or specify how many people should be involved.
Of the 12 members, Boyle's legislation would require parents to fill six seats.
Marshall, a former educator, feared it wouldn't be the best option to encourage parent involvement. While he agreed the adoption process should, and generally is, open to the public, Marshall said parents could "fade out" and get "overwhelmed" by drawn-out committees.
"I think the language is too restrictive and will cause some unintended consequences for large and small school districts," he said. "I think we need to see if we can come up with something that would do what we want it to do — encourage parents to be involved in the process."
However, Boyle and several lawmakers felt the legislation is a step in solving parents' concerns about the K-12 curriculum — which the bill sponsor said is an issue in both the Gem State and nationwide.
"We've seen across the United States the last couple years that parents are very concerned about what their children are learning and what the curriculum is," Boyle said. "The parents that I've been involved with are extremely concerned. So, this is to try and calm things down in the school districts and make everyone feel that they are involved."
Last year, the tension around the K-12 curriculum mounted when Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin launched her Indoctrination Task Force. The mission, she said, was to protect Idaho's young people from the "scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism."
Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby from New Plymouth supported Boyle's legislation, saying it could help resolve the conflict between districts and parents.
"In Idaho and all around the country, there's a lot of people unsettled about this issue. They're upset about different civics type issues, and they're upset by a lot of different things," he said. "So my reading of this bill is that it gives us a framework to work from to help settle things down and give people a voice."
While no one who testified opposed increasing parental involvement, some said the six-person requirement could burden smaller districts. Karen Pyron, a school board trustee in Butte County, said many schools in her district serve less than 500 students and often don't have a mass of community interest.
Pyron said the Butte County School District has had at least three curriculum adoption processes and "were lucky to have one parent" show up after attempts to recruit input in the last two years.
"We're not stopping parents at the door, they do in fact come in, and we invite them to come in," she said. "However, the ability to meet the numbers that are required within this bill is simply nearly impossible."
According to the State Department of Education, the agency adopts new curricula every six years, but local districts can change instructional materials independently between reviews.
This year, state superintendent of public instruction Sherri Ybarra requested $10.3 million in state funding to pay for content and curriculum.
Boyle's bill now heads to the House floor for debate.