Idaho voters rejected Propositions 1, 2 and 3 in the recent election, and with this the Students Come First reform agenda was dealt a setback.
But there is some lingering confusion as to what this actually means for online learning among the state’s high school students since a requirement for the completion of online coursework remains in effect.
Despite the electoral defeat of Proposition 3, a requirement that high school students complete online coursework remains in place. Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff at the Idaho Department of Education, tells IdahoReporter.com that this requirement was brought to bear in the first place by the State Board of Education, and not by the education reform law passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature, known as Senate Bill 1184.
School officials could receive an answer as early as Monday as to the fate of online coursework when the State Board of Education meets in Boise. On the agenda is what to do about the two-course online requirement in light of the defeat of Proposition 3. The board could leave it in place, modify it or do away with it.
“The two-credit online course graduation requirement was set by the State Board of Education through their normal rulemaking process,” he noted. “This is the process by which they (the State Board of Education) establish state minimum graduation requirements.”
Hancock’s point seems to be lost amid much of the reporting on Proposition 3’s defeat. For example, Education Week, a nationwide newspaper that deals with K-12 education, noted in its Nov. 7 edition that had Proposition 3 not been defeated by voters, “students would have been required to earn two credits through online or blended learning courses (courses involving a combination of online and classroom instruction) in order to graduate.”
Hancock, however, disputes this assertion. “The vote on Nov. 6 dealt with a repeal of SB 1184 (via Proposition 3),” he told IdahoReporter.com. “Since the two-credit requirement was not established by SB 1184, but rather, by State Board of Education rule, the requirement remains intact.”
Education officials contacted from around the state by IdahoReporter.com sounded a cautionary note about the election results, and the confusion over online coursework requirements.
"We're a fairly progressive school district as it is," noted Laura Rumpler, spokesperson for Coeur d'Alene School District. "Long before the Students Come First legislation came about, we had been working toward integrating technology in our schools, implementing blended coursework and so forth.”
Rumpler indicated that the district’s leaders are carefully considering the implications of the election on state school requirements, but added, “I don't see us moving backwards, away from technology, just because of the defeat of the ballot propositions.”
Dr. Linda Clark, superintendent of the Meridian School District (the state’s largest school district), said her district’s requirement for two credits of online courses “is a part of the graduation requirement for the class of 2016 and beyond,” and she does not see this changing until and unless the district receives more input. “No recommendation for change in this requirement will be taken to the board (the Meridian School District board) until the district receives clarification, and legal opinion, on the impact of the referendum on this issue.”
For Clark and other schools wondering about the online learning, a decision could come as early as Monday if the state board takes some action on the two-course mandate.