Critchfield’s opinion on how the session affects education

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After the whirlwind 2023 legislative session, education leaders are still making sense of what the new laws mean — or lack thereof — for their schools, staff, and students.

This week and the next, State Superintendent Debbie Critchfield will be there with them because they’re doing just that—all part of her “legislative roadshow” aimed at cannibalizing a new policy for school leaders.

On Wednesday, Critchfield made her round of Idaho State University in Pocatello, giving an overview of the key takeaways from a session that officially ended only Thursday. More than 40 were in attendance, including superintendents, school administrators, school board trustees, and teachers’ union representatives.

If you miss the first two sessions of the tour, there are still four more sessions to come. (Find a full schedule of events here).

Here’s a summary of what Critchfield and its staff shared.

New laws and policies affecting education

Property tax/March election date (H 292)

  • “I don’t want to sound insensitive, but the law is the law: March is removed. So I hope we can now get past the fact that March is gone,” Critchfield said.
  • She encouraged school leaders to start focusing on November as the primary school election.
  • She also spoke with EdNews about how districts need to step up their efforts to inform the public about election dates and ballot initiatives. In addition, districts may need to start approaching voters with more conservative financial questions.


Back to attendance-based financing

Notification to Parents (H 163):

  • Critchfield said of the bill: “It is unfortunate that the word ’empowering parents’ has taken on a negative connotation, because the way we enable parents to be partners in their children’s education is by communicating with them and being transparent about what we do.
  • She added that the bill codifies what many districts are already doing — communicating accurately with parents and opening doors for them.
  • Critchfield Chief of Staff Greg Wilson said the Department of Education is working with stakeholder partners to develop three model policies that schools can use to comply with the new law.
  • School visits by a parent or guardian must be pre-approved. This way, school leaders can ensure that visits do not interrupt testing or distract from learning.

Attachment Notification

Isolation and restraint (H 281)

  • Parents and educators across the state have concerns about segregation and restrictive practices in schools, Critchfield said, so last summer she began working with Julie Meade, the State Department’s director of special education, on the legislation.
  • Students are dealing with more emotional and behavioral health issues than we’ve ever seen, and it’s not just high school students. Critchfield said.
  • A student in crisis with an untrained teacher can lead to “catastrophic” results. “So this is an effort to bring attention to it, but also to provide some support.”
  • Isolation and restriction can still be used — not just as a form of behavior management or punishment: “You use it as a last resort to keep kids and people safe,” explained Ryan Cantrell, deputy chief superintendent.

Attachment Seclusion

Circular Loans Under Charter (S 1043)

  • “The door has not been closed to the discussion about our traditional public school facilities. I don’t want that to be overlooked or lost in this conversation[about charter school funding],” Critchfield said. But solutions to traditional school funding won’t happen “overnight.” .
  • This law will help provide some initial capital funding for Charters.

Attachment Charter 2

Financial Literacy (H 92):

  • Critchfield described the new graduation requirement as a bipartisan success: “No matter what flavor of political persuasion I was on, this was universally accepted as something to help our kids prepare.”
  • Any certified teacher – whether their content area is English, Maths or Physical Education – can teach this course, which offers more flexibility for smaller counties.
  • Graduates of 2024 will be the first to need this requirement for their diplomas. However, waivers are available for districts that need more time to implement a curriculum change.

Work-Ready Students (H 267):

  • This bill would allow CTE funding for grades 7-12. Prior to this legislation, there were no funds available for seventh and eighth grade CTE programs.
  • Critchfield said she wants to see Idaho school districts get creative with their CTE programs and adapt them to their districts. For example, lumber mills in northern Idaho are severely understaffed. It hopes to work with 10 high schools to develop forestry programs, which could line up students for those jobs or for undergraduate forestry programs.
  • Funds will become available July 1, and counties are encouraged to be ready to apply.

Attachment Careerready

Idaho Launch Bill (H 1167)

  • Critchfield said it would be very important for counselors and counselors in colleges and professionals that this bill be filled.
  • Graduates of 2024 will be the first class to receive this money.

Attachment Launch

Empowering Parents (S 1202)

  • Critchfield is seeking applicants for a parent advisory committee, which will have a say in how program funds are used, though that decision will ultimately be made by the state assembly.
  • Parental empowerment funds can be used to go toward private education.

Attachment Empower

Teacher Training (S 1069)

  • This is designed primarily to help individuals, such as paraprofessionals who do not have bachelor’s degrees, to obtain required education and become educators.
  • It would be especially beneficial to rural areas, Cantrell said.
  • “We fully support this and we should have every idea on the table to help our careers and keep and attract our teachers,” Critchfield said.

Attachment Teacherapprentice

In God We Trust (p. 202)

  • While schools are only required to display the national emblem if a copy is donated that meets specific criteria, Critchfield encouraged school leaders to be proactive and purchase a banner and post it in their entrances as a sign of goodwill.

Attachment Ingod

Open Enrollment (S 1125)

  • Read more about this law and its effects here.

Career Exploration (H 269)

Attachment Career

Election of Trustees (H 240)

Attachment Trustee

Silent public prayer (p. 182)

Attachment Silent Prayer

Definition of Chastity (H 228)

Attachment Abstinence

Bathrooms/Utilities (S 1100)

Read more here.

State Dino (S 1127)

Oryctodromeus is the first dinosaur in Idaho.

Bills that didn’t pass… this time

A number of bills failed to become law in this legislative session, but are likely to surface next year. They include:

  • School library bill (H314)
  • Board Training (H 268)
  • Driver Training (H 133)
  • Teacher Spending Accounts (H 1153)
  • Education savings account bills

Further reading: What happened – and what did not happen – during the 2023 session; Analysis: A wild and unexpected legislative session? Just wait until next year.

Carly Flandro

About Carly Flandro

Reporter Carly Flandro works in EdNews’ East Idaho bureau. A former high school English teacher, she writes about teaching, learning, diversity, and equity. You can follow Flandro on Twitter @idahoedcarly and send her news tips at [email protected]

Read more stories by Carly Flandro »

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