BOISE – It was Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna himself who proposed Monday that the state Board of Education repeal the rule requiring that every Idaho student take at least two online classes to graduate from high school.
Earlier this month, voters rejected Luna’s tech-heavy “Students Come First” school reform laws.
Luna said repeatedly during the campaign that even if Proposition 3 was rejected, the online graduation requirement would stand, because it was in state board rules.
Luna’s motion to repeal the rule passed on a 7-1 vote, with just board member Emma Atchley of Ashton, objecting.
Atchley said she worried that the board might spend another year considering the issue and then decide to reimpose the same rule. “I understand the political reality,” she said, “but I think it’s very important that we do not in the end say that we shouldn’t have at least some online learning.”
Board member Bill Goesling, of Moscow, said, “Since the defeat of the propositions, in my discussions with various stakeholders, people agree that there should be some technology requirement. It’s just the type and the numbers that would be in question at this point.”
Board member Rod Lewis of Boise, said, “I hope that we do have the opportunity to talk further about this issue. 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. That will be an increasing component of their post-secondary education and our goal is to prepare students for that time.”
But board member Richard Westerberg of Preston, responded, “All that being said, and I agree with all of that, the vote was not equivocal. It was a pretty strong vote from the populace, and it was very specific the way it was listed on the ballot. … We need to reaffirm what the voters told us.”
The board’s Panhandle member, Don Soltman, of Twin Lakes, agreed. He chaired the board’s subcommittee that set the two-online-courses rule, after the “Students Come First” law ordered the board to pick how many online courses should be required for graduation from high school. The law, as originally proposed, required eight online classes to graduate. That was lowered to six, then four, then to leaving the number up to the state board.
After the vote, Luna said, “I do believe we made the right decision today.”
The board also voted unanimously, with no discussion, to repeal its rules covering “fractional ADA,” a funding scheme that was part of Proposition 3 that automatically diverted state funds from school districts to online course providers, if students opted to take up to half their high school course load online, with or without the district’s approval. It tapped the Average Daily Attendance formula through which districts receive their state funding.
That was part of the reform plan’s push for a new focus on online learning. It also included a failed proposal to provide laptop computers to every Idaho high school student, at a cost of more than $182 million over the next eight years.
In addition, the board voted unanimously to repeal a requirement from the reform laws that parent input be incorporated into teacher evaluations; the board could address that issue again later.