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Education Board Approves Sweeping Rules Revision

A sweeping revision of the regulations governing Idaho’s public school system has won approval from the state Board of Education, including the elimination of physical education as a high school graduation requirement.

The board, meeting Thursday at Idaho State University, agreed to submit the 378-rule manual to lawmakers this winter for final adoption. It replaces some 1,500 regulations that at times dealt with arcane issues and often duplicated each other.

At the heart of the three-year process is allowing non-certified professionals to teach accredited classes, the revamped graduation requirements and whether schools can submit their own standards for accreditation.

Backers of the plan to allow professionals without teacher certificates to teach classes maintain it allows schools to tap community expertise and increase the link between the work place and school.

But critics contend such private sector experts should at least be reviewed by the state Professional Standards Commission before being allowed to teach. And they say specific guidelines should be adopted to keep anyone without a teaching certificate from becoming a “continuing contract teacher,” a form of tenure in public schools.

In light of that concern, the board voted to modify the regulation that would have allowed such experts to teach for three years so that they can only teach for one year without a certificate.

On graduation requirements, 42 credits will still be needed, but physical education, speech and reading were dropped.

Those programs will be still be offered, but students would no longer be required to take them.

Also Thursday, board members indicated that student fees and the way school budgets are set will likely be brought before the Legislature this year.

During its April meeting, the board approved fee increases for resident undergraduate students.

However, the board also discussed the possibility that such fee hikes may violate Idaho laws that prohibit college and university tuition.

Past Legislatures, a previous attorney general and board policy have interpreted tuition to mean the cost of instruction, including professors’ salaries or library books.

Fees, on the other hand, can be designated for administrative and physical plant costs.

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