Idaho Falls

New legislators tackle education issues

2 new lawmakers tackle education issues

BOISE, Idaho - This year, there are a lot of new faces from eastern Idaho in the Legislature. Two in particular have extensive experience in local education and want to pass legislation that will make a difference

Reps. Julie VanOrden of Bingham County and Wendy Horman of Idaho Falls may be rookies, and they may have a lot of questions, but these two lawmakers didn't get to Boise by being shrinking violets.

They're marching into the House with a game plan.

"The public deserves to know the business of government, be able to see it transacted and understand the path of the funding and the money and it's complex," said Horman on Tuesday.

She wants to make sure teacher contract negotiations are open to the public. And she's not simply resurrecting Students Come First, the education reforms that were defeated by the voters in November.

"They were a part of Students Come First, but look at open meetings for negotiations. That's a transparency of government issue," said Horman. "Fifty percent of the state's general fund is spent in education, and it deserves to be done open and in public. So you can say that's left over from Students Come First, or you can say that's about transparency in government. "

Horman has spent a decade on the District 93 school board.

VanOrden also has extensive school board experience, serving in Snake River for a decade and as chairman for the past six years. She's also served on Idaho and National PTA boards. Her goal this session? Tweak the charter school laws in Idaho and go back to demanding charter schools not parallel programs already in existence.

"A change in law made it so charter schools did not have to be different and unique," said Van Orden. "Hopefully we could go back and look at some that, look at what we have now in charter schools and see if it's meeting the goals the state intended, and and address those issues."
VanOrden said she wants to be an advocate for charter schools.

"Charter schools that meet the needs of the students that are going to them, ones that are accountable, ones that want to be transparent and that want to be open and up front with what they're doing," she said.

These rookies may have a lot of learn about lawmaking, but they may have a lot to teach other legislators, too.

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