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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Legislative Update – ESEA on Hold in the House, States Continue Moving Forward

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Kathryn Kennedy

Issue(s): State Policy, Fund Innovation

February 20-27, 2015

As we write this, the US House of Representatives is debating an ESEA reauthorization bill, with a vote expected by the end of the day. In the states, 45 legislatures are now in session. March is generally a very busy month because states are still filing legislation but there is also a good amount of movement in committees and in chambers. As always, we will be sure to keep you updated on these important bills.

The purpose of this blog is to share policy developments in the field of K-12 online learning, blended learning, and competency education – to highlight recent trends, enablers, identify barriers and provide an issues update. It includes a snapshot of important education policies, regulations, gubernatorial, and legislative affairs.

A summary is below; a more detailed version with additional legislative information is available in the members-only iNACOL Member Forums. We track policy priorities and issues related to the field’s needs as outlined annually in the iNACOL State Policy Frameworks. This report provides background information and recommendations for issues on the critical policy shifts needed to transform K-12 education.

State Policy Highlights

  • Two bills have been introduced, one in Minnesota and the other in Oregon, to encourage teacher preparation programs to create competency-based pathways for teacher certification.
  • A bill in Minnesota would provide an appropriation to increase online college course offerings for K-12 students. Another bill in Minnesota would establish the “digital student achievement backpack” to allow for the secured use of student data.
  • A bill in Texas creates an allotment for school districts to purchase technological equipment that contributes to student learning.
  • A bill in Illinois would require the State Board of Education to develop a Course Access program and it designates a funding source and quality assurance process for the program.
  • Another bill in Illinois establishes the Illinois Virtual School, the state’s first statewide virtual school for all Illinois students grades K-12.
  • A bill in Idaho would appropriate $3.6 million for schools to pay for broadband Internet access.
  • Another bill in Idaho, which passed the Education Committee, would require the Division of Professional-Technical Education to coordinate with the Idaho Digital Learning Academy to provide approved online education courses to any Idaho school district.
  • A bill in Iowa would increase the extent and availability of broadband infrastructure throughout the state by allocating funds specifically for that purpose.
  • A bill in Kentucky, which passed the Committee on Education, would allow schools to develop a plan designed to improve student learning and performance with new or creative alternatives to existing instructional and administrative practices.
  • A bill in Indiana that would have restricted the use of data for educational uses was amended to remove the prohibitive language.
  • Another restrictive student data privacy bill in South Dakota was voted to be placed on the 41stlegislative day, which effectively means it will not be considered again this session.

Federal Policy Highlights

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives began floor debate to consider H.R. 5, the Student Success Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). As we write this, the full chamber is still voting on amendments to H.R. 5 (you can follow along here) and is expected to take a vote of final passage by the end of the day Friday.

Of note in the House ESEA proceedings:

  • An amendment proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would permit ESEA funding (part of a new block grant called “Local Academic Flexible Grants”) to be used for the creation and distribution of open access textbooks and open educational resources. This amendment was approved on a voice vote.
  • An amendment offered by Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) to support the expansion of the use of digital learning through competitive grants to partnerships to implement and evaluate the results of technology-based learning practices, strategies, tools, or programs at rural schools. The amendment was defeated on a voice vote.
  • Already in the bill: A new Blended Learning Projects program (carved out of state activities funds in the new “Local Academic Flexible Grants” block grant) which would require states to award competitive grants to local education agencies and charter schools (or a consortium). It is significant that this program defines blended learning using the Christensen Institute definition. Defining blended learning in law is important to ensure programs are of high quality, transformative, and student-centered. This language is modeled on a bill introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), H.R. 678, the 21st Century Classroom Innovation Act.

Next steps for ESEA: Once the House passes H.R. 5, the ball will be in the Senate’s court. Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) are working on a bipartisan bill that we’ve heard could be marked up (voted on by the committee) by March.

iNACOL 2015 Blended and Online Learning Symposium

The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be held November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. We are now accepting proposals for conference sessions through March 26. Access the Request for Proposals submission system here.

Already a member? Access the more detailed legislative highlights through the Membership Forum.

Not yet a member? Join iNACOL to gain access to this Membership Forum, job postings, announcements, grant opportunities, and the latest information from the field.