Another aspect of Superintendent Tom Luna’s plan to reform education in Idaho is now no more. Earlier this week, Luna himself made a motion to the members of the state Board of Education to repeal a rule that made taking at least two online courses mandatory for high school graduation.
With the voter rejection of Luna’s Students Come First laws, Luna felt that the writing was on the wall. Although the Board of Education didn’t have to follow the desires of the voters in this matter, because Proposition 3 specifically mentioned the new graduation requirement Luna felt that repealing it was following the voters’ intent in rejecting Proposition 3.
All three propositions dealing with the school reform laws championed by Luna failed by hefty margins, with Prop 3, which dealt with the technology portion of the new regulations, gaining twice as many votes against it as for it. In light of that, the board members voted 7-1 to eliminate the online course graduation requirement. The only person who opposed the repeal was member Emma Atchley from Ashton.
“My biggest concern is that if we do not go forward with the online requirement, and we spend a year deciding whether we’re going to have it or how we’re going to have it, and we all end up wanting it in the end anyway, we’ve just lost another year,” she said. “I understand the political reality, 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.”
Even board members who voted for repeal, however, want to see some kind of tech requirement for graduation in the future. Bill Goesling of Moscow, Idaho said that he wasn’t alone among board members who felt that some such measure should be put in front of the board for consideration relatively soon. Goesling’s remarks were echoed by Rod Lewis of Boise, who admitted that even if the idea of mandatory online courses is dead at the moment, it would be silly to pretend that in an increasingly technological world, students sent off to college without some kind of experience in digital learning weren’t going to be at a disadvantage.
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. … I think … 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.