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Idaho education board repeals online class obligation

The rule would have required every Idaho student to take at least two online classes before graduating from high school.

Idaho students won’t have to take any online classes before graduating, at least for now, after the state education board voted to repeal the online-learning requirement. The move comes after voters in the state rejected other technology-related school reform efforts, such as a measure that would have given every high school student a laptop.

It was Idaho Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna himself who proposed Nov. 19 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.

Voters rejected Luna’s tech-heavy “Students Come First” school reform laws during the Nov. 6 elections.

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.

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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.”

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