The Senate Education Committee today approved the proposed online credit rule, but with a twist. The panel acted with the understanding that the State Board would write a new rule eliminating the requirement that one of the two required classes be asynchronous.

State Superintendent Tom Luna said he made the move in response to testimony on Tuesday that showed widespread opposition to requiring an asynchronous class, or one in which the student and teacher are online at different times. But he said that since the committee could only pass or reject a rule, not amend it, the State Board would have to write another rule to remove the asynchronous requirement. Sen. John Andreason (R-Boise) moved to pass the rule as-is, and the committee vote was 8-1. Sen. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise) cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she felt even the new rule would not serve all Idaho students.

Following the vote, Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr said, “Idaho educators support the use of more online learning, but we know that truly effective online learning will require more teachers, not fewer. What’s more, the state is only partially funding the technology upgrades that will make quality online learning possible for students, and that funding comes at the expense of teaching positions and teacher salaries. Nevertheless, Wednesday’s action was a step in the right direction of allowing more local and parental control into how online classes are taken.”

In other action, the Senate committee approved a rule that seems to put further restrictions on what teachers can negotiate. Idaho Education Association General Counsel Paul Stark testified before the panel a week ago, and the committee deferred action at that time to seek an opinion from the Idaho Attorney General’s office.

In reiterating the IEA’s case against the rule, Stark reminded the committee that the State Board of Education did not consider nearly three dozen comments in opposition to the rule when it approved the rule November 3. Stark also noted that while Senate Bill 1108 used the word “including” to outline what can be discussed in collective bargaining, the new rule uses the phrase “shall be limited to.” Stark said that a statute must authorize rulemaking, and SB1108 did not.

But Brian Kane of the state Attorney General’s office said he remained “reasonably comfortable” that the state’s actions in making the rule are “legally defensible.” Asked by Sen. Mitch Toryanski (R-Boise) whether the rule would stand up in the Idaho Supreme Court, Kane joked that it was a bad day to guess what the court might do. (Earlier in the day, the high court ruled against the state’s redistricting plan on the grounds that it violates the Idaho Constitution by dividing too many counties.)

Citing the differing opinions over the rule’s legality and recalling two previous AG office opinions that were overturned in court, Sen. Edgar Malepeai (D-Pocatello) moved that the panel reject the rule. But Sen. John Goedde (R-Coeur d'Alene) said the (U.S.) Supreme Court has yet to hear those cases. He made a substitute motion to accept the rule, and it passed. The House Education Committee will address the rule when it meets Thursday at 9 a.m. in Room EW41. A subcommittee of the House panel has already recommended that the full committee pass it.

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