The House Education Committee today OK’d the proposed rule requiring two online course credits for graduation. But one lawmaker blasted news that the State Department of Education would seek a new rule eliminating the requirement that one of the classes be asynchronous.
“It seems to me we’re going backward,” said Rep. Steve Hartgen (R-Twin Falls), adding that the asynchronous class requirement was intended to give school districts the opportunity to save money. He asked State Superintendent Tom Luna to comment. Luna replied that there was strong opposition to the asynchronous requirement among those who testified earlier this week, and that districts could still choose the asynchronous option even if it is not mandated. (An asynchronous class is one in which the teacher and students do not have to be online at the same time.)
“This opens a significant loophole,” Hartgen said of the proposed decision to remove the asynchronous requirement, adding that Senate Bill 1184 intended to allow districts to cut staff through the increased use of technology. He went on to suggest that the state ought to take a lesson from the railroads. He said that at one time, a railroad fireman was positioned on every train in case a fire broke out. As technology improved, very few fires broke out, making the need for the fireman obsolete. Workers protested the move, but the railroads saved money by eliminating those jobs.
However, other members of the panel including Rep. Brian Cronin (D-Boise) and Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home) thanked Luna for his efforts to get rid of the asynchronous course requirement. Rep. Sue Chew (D-Boise) noted that recent research shows that students don’t do as well in asynchronous classes.
Rep. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls), a former teacher, said he was especially pleased that the online credit requirement had fallen from eight to two. But he said he opposed mandating specific classes in general, adding that students and parents ought to have flexibility to allow students to follow their interests.
The House Education Committee will consider a proposed rule that the Idaho Education Association contends puts further restrictions on teacher negotiations when it meets on Monday morning. IEA General Counsel Paul Stark will provide testimony in opposition to that rule. Neither the Senate Education Committee nor the House Education Committee will meet tomorrow.