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Posts tagged: idaho state board of education

State Board approves UI acquisition of McCall campus through land swap, bond

Idaho's State Board of Education has unanimously approved the University of Idaho's purchase of its McCall campus, which is along the shore of Payette Lake adjacent to Ponderosa State Park. It's currently endowment land managed by the state Land Board, and the UI has leased it for 65 years. The site includes the university's forestry camp and other education programs through its College of Natural Resources.

The Land Board raised the lease rate this year from about $50,000 a year to about $250,000, prompting the university decide to buy the land. Developed over the last several years, the complex transaction includes a land exchange. A private party, IW4 LLC, plans to acquire the property from the Department of Lands through a land swap for commercial property, and then sell it to the UI at its current appraised value, $6.1 million.

The UI plans to draw on its internal reserves to cover acquisition costs, and then reimburse the reserves from a future bond issue; it also is fundraising, and hoping to reduce the size of the future bond issue with major gifts. It's forecasting that the university will end up saving money on the deal, because its debt service on the bond should be less than the $250,000 annual lease payments.

The board is gathered for a special meeting this morning; among items on its agenda are possible repeal of the requirement that Idaho high school students take two online classes to graduate from high school, now that voters have rejected the “Students Come First” school reform laws that proposed the online grad requirement.

‘Fractional ADA’ funding scheme diverting school funds to online providers also up for repeal Monday

There also are two other rule changes on the State Board of Education's agenda for Monday's special meeting that are a result of the rejection of the “Students Come First” laws by voters: One regarding “fractional ADA,” and another regarding teacher and principal evaluations. The agenda calls for fractional ADA to be repealed, while the evaluation issue may wait for input from stakeholders.

“Fractional ADA” refers to Average Daily Attendance, which is the basis on which school districts receive their state funding, as it's tied through a complex formula to the number of students. Under “fractional ADA,” which was repealed in Proposition 3 by voters last week, a portion of Idaho school districts' state funding is automatically diverted to an online course provider, if students or parents choose to take some of their courses online. The “Students Come First” laws allowed students to make that choice for up to half their high school course load, with or without the permission of their school district.

State Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney said that rule is legally required to be repealed, now that the state law authorizing the payments scheme has been repealed by voters. State Board Chairman Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls said, “That actually was the subject of discussion many times with superintendents and administrators and even with teachers, trying to understand what impact that had on them. It has a much deeper impact that I originally thought.” Said Edmunds, “The funding issues are very significant.”

The original “Students Come First” laws passed in 2011 allowed students to choose to take their entire high school course load online at state expenses under the fractional ADA formula; a 2012 revision cut that back to half their course load.

State Board sets special meeting for Monday, could repeal online graduation requirement

The Idaho State Board of Education has set a special meeting for Monday, at which it could decide to repeal a rule requiring all Idaho students to take at least two online courses to graduate from high school, now that the “Students Come First” law that directed the board to make the rule has been repealed by voters.

“There isn't a legal requirement, because the board has the authority to set administrative rules and to set graduation requirements,” said board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney. “That having been said, the board is well aware of the outcome of the election and this board has been very in tune with public input.”

The board's agenda includes a pending rule to modify the graduation requirement, removing controversial requirements that at least one of the courses be “asynchronous,” meaning the course is delivered entirely online and teachers and students participate on their own schedules. That requirement drew opposition from school boards, school administrators and Idaho school districts; state lawmakers voted in in their last legislative session to do away with it.

The board has two options on Monday, Whitney said: Approve the pending change to the rule, or reconsider the whole rule and do away with the online graduation requirement. The board's agenda packet for Monday's meeting includes this note: “The part of the question posed to the voters in Proposition 3 clearly included the repeal of online learning as a graduation requirement. While the Board has the authority to promulgate rules setting minimum high school graduation requirements, the failure of proposition three removed the statutory requirement that they include online learning for the class of 2016.”

State Board votes 4-3 for second year of UI law program in Boise

The Idaho State Board of Education, meeting in Lewiston today, voted 4-3 in favor of offering a second year of law school in Boise through the University of Idaho; currently, the UI College of Law offers just one year - the third year - of its law program in Boise. Under the proposal, if lawmakers in their session that starts in January approve, the second year of law school also would be offered in Boise, starting in the fall of 2013. That would require lawmakers approving a $400,000 appropriation for the program.

If they do, law students still would go to Moscow for the first year of the program, but would have the option of learning in Boise for the second and third years. Here's the vote breakdown in today's board vote:

Voting in favor: Board members Emma Atchley of Ashton, Bill Goesling of Moscow, Tom Luna and Don Soltman of Twin Lakes.
Voting against: Board members Rod Lewis of Boise, Richard Westerberg of Preston, and Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls.

Board member Milford Terrell was absent.

State Board of Ed rejects changes to college student health insurance mandate

A proposal to amend the state Board of Education's policy regarding required health insurance for state university students failed today, when a motion to approve it for a first reading failed to even get a second. The changes would have included lifting a requirement that state universities offer insurance to students, and lifting a requirement that students obtaining their own insurance get policies at least equal to school-offered plans.

Boise State University argued that 85 percent of its students obtain insurance elsewhere, a number that's been rising, and with climbing premiums, it's becoming too expensive for the school to be in the insurance business. Instead, officials there said they'd like to focus on helping that 15 percent of their students to find appropriate insurance plans from other providers. BSU said it still would offer school-based insurance for student athletes and international students, because of other requirements.

However, the University of Idaho reported that an increasing number of students there are choosing to go with the school's own insurance plan.  And Idaho State University Vice President Jim Fletcher urged against lifting the requirement for school-based plans, saying that while just 29 percent of ISU students now choose the school's student health insurance, among “lower income students over 50 percent are taking that, and more are dependent on that.” At Lewis-Clark State College, 28 percent are covered by the school's plan, a number that hasn't changed much in recent years.

Fletcher said, “We do believe that these changes would have the net effect of watering down our coverage.” Board member Rod Lewis said, “I personally have some real concerns about what it means for students. … We're not making available the last-resort ability to get coverage.”

Eastern Idaho Technical College requested to be exempted from the insurance requirement entirely, arguing that it's more like a two-year community college; Idaho's community colleges aren't subject to the state board's requirement, because they are locally run, property-tax supported schools with their own elected boards. The board voted 4-2 against granting EITC the exemption, with just members Bill Gosling and Emma Atchley backing the exemption. State board staffer Matt Freeman said afterward, “The board just feels very strongly they want students insured.”

State Board to consider changes to student health insurance mandate at special meeting today

The state Board of Education will again consider changes to its policy requiring that full-time public college and university students have health insurance, in a special meeting today that starts at 1 p.m. The Lewiston Tribune reports ( that the board took up the issue in April, rejecting a request by some schools to suspend the rule for a year because of sharp increases in insurance premiums; if the board reverses course, students wouldn't be freed from the requirement until next fall because health care contracts for the current year are already in place. Some of Idaho's universities sought to suspend the requirement last year, the paper reports, as insurance premiums spiked by as much as 46 percent with fewer students opting for school policies and instead remaining on their parent's insurance plans.

Board spokeswoman Marilyn Whitney told the Associated Press that the changes under consideration would remove the portion of the board's policy that requires students who don't have health insurance to purchase a policy through their school, and eliminate the part of the policy that requires students who are already insured to have a policy that is equivalent to the coverage they would receive through their respective university or college; the requirement for all students to have health insurance would remain in place.


For those who want to listen in, the teleconference number for the special board meeting is (877) 807-5706, and the public participant code is 556261. The matter is the second of two items on the agenda; you can read the proposed policy changes here.

State, UI seek dismissal of lawsuit over fall from frat-house window

Here's a news item from the Associated Press/Moscow-Pullman Daily News: MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) ― A 2nd District Court Judge in northern Idaho is scheduled on Wednesday to hear arguments concerning a request by the University of Idaho and Idaho State Board of Education to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the parents of a former student who fell from a fraternity house window. Esmeralda Banda and Raul Andaverde in September filed the lawsuit claiming the university, state board and several fraternities and sororities on the Moscow campus didn't do enough to ensure the safety of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house where their daughter was injured. Amanda Andaverde was seriously injured in the 2009 fall. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports ( the school and board of education have filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit.

State Ed Board signs off on new five-year contract for Coach Pete at BSU

Idaho's state Board of Education has signed off on a new five-year, $11.7 million contract for Boise State football coach Chris Petersen, the Associated Press reports; the board unanimously approved the new contract at its meeting today in Moscow. Petersen's new package includes a bump in base pay each of the five years plus a series of incentives, according to the AP; they include a $250,000 annual licensing payment for use of Petersen's name and image. Earlier this year, the board approved giving Petersen a $375,000 raise for 2012. The contract is designed to keep Petersen's salary competitive and retain him as the head of the Broncos highly successful football program.

Ed Board endorses Vailas plan to again dump ISU faculty leaders, get new ones

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Faculty governance at Idaho State University will again be revamped under a plan endorsed by the state Board of Education. The board voted Thursday to approve the recommendation from school President Arthur Vailas, who called for the election of a new Faculty Senate this fall. The board voted last year to dissolve the previous Faculty Senate, which been at loggerheads with Vailas. The university then elected new, temporary faculty leaders to work with Vailas to adopt a new constitution. The provisional Faculty Senate was due to sunset this month, or upon the completion of constitution. But the two sides appeared far from a consensus in February, when faculty reported they had reached an impasse with Vailas. Vailas recommended work on the constitution continue with a new, permanent Faculty Senate.

State Board OKs higher ed tuition hikes; says rates ‘still the best deal in town’

The State Board of Education has approved tuition and fee increases proposed by the state's colleges and universities for next year as requested by each institution: 4 percent for Lewis-Clark State College; 6.1 percent for the University of Idaho; 5.7 percent for Boise State University; 4.7 percent for Idaho State University; and 4.7 percent for Eastern Idaho Technical College. You can read my full story here at

All the votes were unanimous except the U of I and BSU increases, which passed on 5-2 votes, after board member Ken Edmunds said he worried that state lawmakers expected lower increases and said, “Regardless of what's happening in other states, the barrier to our students is significant … due to financial issues.” Edmunds and board President Richard Westerberg cast the dissenting votes.

Student body officials from the schools backed the increases; among their reasons: If the schools can't hire enough instructors for them to get the classes they need, they can't graduate on time, and their education will cost even more. BSU President Bob Kustra told the board, “We are all dealing with what is a balancing act, balancing affordability against the quality of the education we are able to afford our students.” He noted that after an extensive public-involvement program on his campus, the recommendation presented to him was for a 7.2 percent increase, but he worried about the message that would send to prospective parents and students “about the cost of higher education today. … I came down on 5.7 percent as a realistic approach to what Boise State needs to fund itself.”

He noted, “We are agonizing here over what is … some of the most modest, affordable, bargain-rated tuitions anywhere in the United States of America. That's really a credit, I think, to this board, it's a credit to the universities the board holds responsible that we can do what we do with the minimum expenditure from our students when it comes to tuition.”

ISU President Arthur Vailas told the board that public university tuition has been going up across the country for years, whether state appropriations are up or down. “It's because the universities … have been in a catch-up mode for the last 25 years,” he said.

Board member Milford Terrell, who made all the motions, cited “the compelling arguments that I've heard here today that we're still under most of our sister institutions throughout the United States. … We're still the best deal in town.”

More than 6,300 have signed pro-‘flagship’ petition for UI, board urged to restore

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The University of Idaho's student body president says more than 6,300 signatures were collected on a petition asking the state Board of Education to reconsider removing the proposed term “flagship” from the school's updated mission statement. Samantha Perez implored trustees Wednesday to revisit their decision, prompting a chuckle when noting more people signed the petition than live in Preston ― board president Richard Westerberg's home town. Westerberg responded, tongue-in-cheek: “We are working on our population.” Perez and others approached trustees over the “flagship” removal during a board meeting in Moscow. School officials have long used the term “flagship” to brand the university, Idaho's oldest, but it was only added to a proposed new mission statement last year. Board members didn't deem the term appropriate and it was struck in February.

Board of Ed considers tuition, fee increases for universities…

The state board of Education is currently hearing pitches from state universities for tuition fee hikes for next year; University of Idaho President Duane Nellis said the UI's proposed 6.1 percent increase is “a very important figure to help us stabilize our situation after four years of cuts.” It would mean an additional $356 a year for resident students. Samantha Perez, student body president, told the board students have been strongly supportive of the plan. “I haven't received one verbal or written complaint about the proposal,” she said. If the increase were approved, the UI's resident tuition and fees for a year would rise to $6,212, Nellis said, while the average among comparable schools is nearly $8,300. You can watch the meeting live online here.

Idaho universities tone down their tuition hike requests for next year

Idaho's state universities overall are looking at lower tuition increases next year than they've imposed in recent years, AP reporter Jessie Bonner reports; the universities will make their pitch to the State Board of Education next week. Click below to read Bonner's full report.

State board names new communications chief

Idaho's state Board of Education has named Marilyn Whitney its new chief communications and legislative affairs officer, replacing Mark Browning, who left for a position as a vice president at North Idaho College. Whitney was formerly the statewide community outreach coordinator for the Idaho National Laboratory; she previously spent 15 years in corporate communications at Micron Technology and two years at the Idaho Department of Fish & Game. Mike Rush, state board executive director, said Whitney was selected from “a pool of highly qualified applicants.” She holds both bachelor's and master's degrees from Boise State University; you can see the board's full announcement here. Whitney will be paid $75,300, the same salary Browning received.

State Board picks EITC VP to fill president’s spot

Idaho's state Board of Education, in a special meeting this afternoon, named Steven Albiston the new president of Eastern Idaho  Technical College, replacing Burton Waite, who will retire at the end of December. Albiston, an eastern Idaho native and longtime EITC employee, is the current vice president for instruction and student affairs. Click below for the board's full announcement.

Westerberg: ‘There is no equivocation among the board members’

Richard Westerberg, president of the Idaho State Board of Education, said after the board's unanimous vote to approve an online-class requirement for high school graduation, “We certainly received some input.” He said, “The board is firmly behind online learning. We believe it's imperative moving forward that our students be able to have skills in that area.” Mark Browning, state board spokesman, noted that many of the public comments objected to the law calling for requiring online courses. “That ship has sailed,” Browning said. “We have a law passed by the Legislature.”

Westerberg said the public comments received in public hearings across the state, which were largely negative as were those received in the final comment period on the rule, “actually informed what the rule might be.” He said, “Two credits is actually a fairly modest requirement.” State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna's original proposal was to require eight online classes for graduation.

Westerberg said, “There is no equivocation among the board members - that's an area that we need to get good at, our students need to get good at.” You can read my full story here at

IEA: Decision on online classes should be for ‘students and parents, not state’

The Idaho Education Association has issued a statement in response to the state Board of Education's vote today to require every Idaho student to take two online classes to graduate from high school, saying in part, “Idaho educators, parents, and students see value in online classes. We recognize that they are a good choice for many students. However, Idahoans have said repeatedly since last January that the decision to take online classes should be made by students and their parents, not by the state.” Click below for the full statement.

State board members on online class rule: ‘I thought that was pretty good’

State Board member Don Soltman, who made the motion to approve the online class requirement, said, “For the record, during the 21-day comment period there were … additional comments,” generally saying that they “felt there should not be an online learning requirement.” He said, “Additional concerns were expressed” about financial impacts on school districts and on the Idaho Digital Learning Academy.

Board member Milford Terrill said he had a discussion about the rule with his grandson. “He's a home schooler, and he is now in one of our universities here in the state of Idaho, and he's writing a paper in his English class on why this is so important to kids, to have these credits in being able to do stuff online, because he, everything he does, his assignments, everything that the teacher has to say, he has to go online to find that out. And now he's doing a speech, as we speak, in communications class as to why this is important. And I found that very interesting, a kid 19 years old, is writing an epistle on why this is good and giving speeches on why we should have this in our institutions, and in our K-12 program. So I thought that was pretty good.”

The board's unanimous vote means Idaho students now must take two online classes to graduate from high school. The Legislature will review the rule during its session that starts in January, but it already passed the school-reform legislation that called for the new online-class requirement.

Online class requirement approved

State Board of Education members have voted 8-0 in favor of requiring every Idaho student to take two online classes to graduate from high school, a rule that's been widely panned at public hearings across the state and drawn mostly negative public comment, but is a centerpiece of state schools Supt. Tom Luna's “Students Come First” school reform plan.

State board to vote on online-class requirement

Idaho's state Board of Education also is scheduled to vote this afternoon on whether to make Idaho the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two classes online to graduate, a proposal that's come in for heavy criticism across the state; the state board's staff is recommending the board give the rule its final approval. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner on the issue.

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About this blog

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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