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School board leader says Idaho law forces choice between parents, feds

By   /   October 20, 2015  /   No Comments

Karen Echeverria

Karen Echeverria

The leader of the Idaho School Board Association said Thursday a new state parental rights law forces districts to choose between parents and the federal government.

“What is a school district to do?” asked Karen Echeverria, president of the ISBA. “We’re going to breach one and comply with the other.”

Echeverria, a veteran Idaho politico, suggested a state law written this year sets up the showdown between parents and the feds. That law, House Bill 113a, wrote into state law the rights parents have in directing their children’s health, religious and school decisions.

Most parents, she said, want to excuse their children from the Smarter Balanced Practice and Training Test, commonly referred to as the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) test. The exam is a key piece of the Common Core education standards.

Federal regulations mandate all students in grades 3 through 8 take the test. “It’s part of the waiver we have with the feds,” she said. Idaho applied for a No Child Left Behind waiver in 2012 and declared its support for Common Core in that document.

“The question is, how do we deal with it?” she asked.

To handle it, the ISBA’s executive committee approved resolution No. 5 this month, a request for greater study of parental requests for exemptions from certain educational standards.

“We want to keep track of requests we are getting,” she said. “Can we just wait to see what’s working and what’s not working?”

The ISBA resolution asks only for the tracking, but also suggests the Idaho Legislature “hold at bay” any further expansion of parental rights in education.

Echeverria declined to give her personal opinion of the SBAC test, saying only that her group supports Common Core standards in Idaho.

When the bill first surfaced during the 2014 legislative session, Echeverria questioned the need for new language in the code.

“We don’t see that the U.S. Constitution addresses education, so we don’t think that it makes sense to reference it,” she said at the time. “We frankly don’t understand why this bill is even necessary at all.”

The ISBA’s resolution unnerved some parents.

“Our taxpayer money is going to a private trade group that backs the federal government over parents rights,” said Middleton’s Tammy Nichols, a mother and education advocate. “And we are having to pay for that.”

Mila Wood of Middleton also blasted ISBA for pushing the plan and wondered if the Middleton School District should spend thousands of dollars a year to participate in the private lobbying group.

“To find out this private trade group wants parents to have less of a voice in their child’s education and privacy protection, it makes me sad,” Wood said. “Would parents in Middleton be proud, and happy that our district is using taxpayer money, that could go into classrooms, to fund this group working against them?”