The Senate Education Committee has begun its four days of hearings on the Luna bills, SB 1068 and SB 1069.
Luna began his presentation to the committee by outlining some of the changes he's made since he last spoke with the panel in January, notably that students will be required to take six rather than eight online credits during their high school years. He also stressed that local districts will have local control over what he is now calling “mobile computing devices.” Districts will decide whether the devices will be used only during school day or taken home, and that they'll be secure since the state will provide tech support and security via filtering software.
He said we also know the economic situation is worse than when he introduced his plan, with a projected shortfall of $80 million or more. “The current system is not financially sustainable,” he said. “The status quo is collapsing under its own weight.” Then he outlined the three options he's been saying all along; we can: 1) cannibalize the current system; 2) raise taxes to fund education; or 3) “spend what we have differently to educate more students at a higher level with limited resources.”
Luna said that Idaho schools are succeeding, with 62 percent meeting state goals, up from 26 percent; he admitted that this is due to the hard work of teachers, students, and parents. But he added that this progress cannot be sustained in an underfunded system.
He said he's heard many concerns about the plan and said most are based on misinformation.
He defended online courses, saying that they're already being taught by Idaho-certified teachers. He didn't mention the student-teacher ratios of 50-to-1 or greater that are standard in online courses. “No technology is replacing any teacher,” he said. The state will give teachers more technology to “manage” the larger classes they'll have under his plan.
He said districts and parents won't bear the brunt of supporting or replacing mobile computing devices. He reiterated that the laptops are going to serve as textbooks, calculators, and other learning tools.
He said that research shows no relationship between class sizes and student outcomes, adding, “The fact is great teachers know how to handle one or two more students in their classroom.”
He asked why people are so riled up over the technology in the plan and not concerned about the funding cliff and contract issues. It may have to do with the fact that, until a few days ago, no one knew how much Gov. Otter had underestimated the state's revenue shortfall.