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State education board repeals online learning requirement … at least for now

State education board repeals online learning requirement … at least for now

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
November 19, 2012

The Idaho State Board of Education voted 7-1 Monday to repeal the requirement that high school students complete two online courses in order to graduate. Yet, members of the board remained adamant that online course requirements need to be reinstated quickly, and a new process to arrive at those requirements should be implemented soon.

“The perception among the public, I believe, is that with the defeat of Proposition 3 in the election, we removed the online learning requirements,” noted Tom Luna, member of the board and the state superintendent of public instruction, as he spoke to fellow board members at the meeting.

Last week, IdahoReporter.com reported that Proposition 3 provided funding and resources to enable local schools to comply with the online course requirement and, despite Proposition 3’s defeat with voters, the online course requirement remained in place.

Luna said that language on the statewide ballot made reference to the online coursework requirement, which, in his view, added to the confusion among the electorate. “Many people, I suspect, thought they were voting against online coursework altogether,” he told his fellow board members, and he then proposed that the requirement be repealed, and that a new process be put in place to determine an online course requirement for the future.

“It’s important that students learn this,” board member Rod Lewis, Boise, stated in the meeting. “If you really look at what's happening in post-secondary institutions and the change that is occurring there, I think it is going to be increasingly important that we have students at the end of the day know how to take classes online effectively.”

“I’m concerned that we might be swinging from one extreme to another,” said Don Soltman, Twin Lakes, vice president of the board. “We established this (online learning) requirement for a very good reason. I understand why Tom (Luna) has proposed the change, but if we make this change, we need to reinstate a new online learning requirement and do it rapidly.”

While each of the board members who spoke on the issue insisted that having an online course requirement is imperative, only one board member voted against the measure to repeal the requirement.

“My biggest concern is that if we do not go forward with the online requirement, and we spend a year deciding whether we're going to have it or how we're going to have it, and we all end up wanting it in the end anyway, we've just lost another year,” said Emma Atchley, Ashton, the lone board member to oppose the change. “That would amount to another year of lost progress.”

Last week, IdahoReporter.com reported that several Idaho school districts were planning to retain their online course requirements, despite the outcome of the election.
“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,” while also noting that she did not anticipate the school district reversing this trend.

Similarly, Dr. Linda Clark, superintendent of the Meridian School District, said her district would need a “legal opinion” from the Idaho Department of Education before any changes were made to its online learning requirements.

Still, after the state board voted in favor of the repeal, Luna reiterated the need for a “new process” to be implemented that would determine a new online learning requirement for Idaho high school students.

“We must realize that through all of this, a lot more students across the state have begun learning online because we set these requirements for local districts,” Luna said to his fellow board members. “We need to get new requirements reinstated, so opportunities for students don’t begin to shrink.”

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