Amid the consternation and confusion over online education in no small part due to the voter rejection in November of the Students Come First education reforms, at least one program remains: Idaho’s new “8 in 6” education is intact, and is set to launch this spring.
“I anticipate that students will begin enrolling this April,” says Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett. Thayn crafted the program, officially known as House Bill 426, back in 2011 when he was serving in the House of Representatives. The plan enables students to compress four years of high school and four years of a bachelor’s degree program—eight years total—into six years. All made possible by the state paying for a share of summer school courses, taken either online or in-class.
Under the program, the state will pay $225 per summer school course for each student, and students and families will pay a remaining $75 per course fee. If students do not perform well enough in the classes, the state support will end and families will be asked to pay the full class costs for moving forward in the program.
Thayn, to a large degree, was able to sell his program to fellow lawmakers due to the cost effectiveness of his idea. He said that helping students take college courses in high school will, over time, likely alleviate the strain on state funds for colleges and universities. He estimated that the state could eventually save as much as $14 million annually through the program.
Former State Rep. Brian Cronin, D-Boise, supported the idea because he believed it was another way to get more students into college. “I appreciate your constant willingness to think outside the box and your creative approach,” Cronin said of Thayn. Cronin noted at the time that he believed the idea would need some refinement, if implemented, but nonetheless told IdahoReporter.com that “I think this is a good concept.”
Despite the outcome of last year’s election and the defeat of propositions 1, 2 and 3, interest in online educational content delivery has continued, both with individual students and households, and entire school districts.
“We’re a fairly progressive school district as it is,” Coeur d’Alene School District spokesperson Laura Rumpler tells IdahoReporter.com about online education. “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 told IdahoReporter.com that “The Coeur d’Alene School District continues to embrace online learning opportunities for our students, especially the blended learning classroom. We want our students to be well prepared for a diversity of learning formats in both higher education and technical training settings.”
For his part, Thayn believes that local school districts should be able to answer questions and get students enrolled in the program. “Either that, or students and parents can contact me directly at my office,” he told IdahoReporter.com. Thayn can be reached at [email protected].