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For-profit online course providers to compete with locals, under school reform law

The Idaho Statesman's Dan Popkey reports today that some members of the Students Come First Technology Task Force got an unwelcome surprise in subcommittee meetings of the group this week - the consortiums their school districts are forming to offer distance-learning classes over the Idaho Education Network won't qualify as online courses for graduation requirements for the kids in their own district, who are in the same building as the teachers. It also appears that their efforts won't prevent district funds being siphoned off to other online course providers, including for-profit ones, if students decide to take classes from them.

That's the “fractional ADA” provision of the reform laws, the part that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush yesterday described as unique in the country. ADA stands for average daily attendance, which determines how state school funds are parceled out to school districts. Under the reform laws, if students decide to take an online class, a fraction of the ADA for that student is automatically shifted to the online course provider, whether or not the school district approves of it.

Popkey reports that Cliff Green, regional vice president for the for-profit Insight Schools and a member of the task force, sees opportunity in the new formula, making it easier for companies like his to compete with the state-operated Idaho Digital  Learning Academy, which now offers online courses to all Idaho schools. “It's been hard to come into a state and compete with subsidy,” Green said, referring to IDLA. “Now, whoever has the best product will win.” You can read Popkey's full story here.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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