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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Policy Update – Buzzer Beaters and Bracket Busters

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issue(s): State Policy, Fund Innovation, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education

March 19 – March 26, 2015

As March Madness draws to a close, the states are also racing against the clock as many will be adjourning within the next two months. Two months is plenty of time in basketball, but not so much in the legislative process. As always, we will continue to track these bills and keep you updated every week on important movements or changes.

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.


iNACOL is currently tracking 78 bills in 28 states. 

Legislative Calendars and Deadlines

  • Kentucky adjourned on March 24.
  • South Dakota’s legislature is in recess and is expected to come back on March 30 for a one-day veto session.
  • Georgia is expected to adjourn on April 2.
  • Virginia is expected to reconvene on April 15 for a veto session.

iNACOL Testimony

  • On Tuesday, iNACOL Director of State Policy Dale Frost was in Springfield, IL testifying before the Illinois Senate Education Committee regarding Illinois SB 1679.  The bill would establish a Course Access program in Illinois. His written testimony is available here. The bill passed out of the committee on a 12-1 vote.
  • On Thursday, iNACOL President and CEO Susan Patrick submitted testimony to the Ohio House Finance Committee regarding the Competency-Based Pilot Program found in Ohio HB 64. The bill would appropriate $2.5 million for grants to implement competency-based learning at 10 school districts, community schools, or STEM schools. Her written testimony is available here.

New Legislation

  • There are two new bills in Texas: (1) to establish the Texas Commission on Next Generation Assessments and Accountability, to recommend a new system of assessments and public school accountability; and (2) to prohibit field-based instructional hours for teacher certification to be fulfilled through online modalities.
  • Minnesota has introduced two new bills this week: (1) to define the “Student Achievement Backpack” to address student data privacy concerns; and (2) to allow charter authorizers to more easily close charter schools in the bottom 10% of performance for all public schools.
  • A bill in New Jersey would permit online learning only for the purposes of credit recovery and remediation.
  • A bill in Tennessee would extend the Virtual Public Schools Act to June 30, 2019.

Bills on the move

  • A bill in California that would establish a pilot program for teacher professional development for the effective use of technology and digital resources has been scheduled for a hearing.
  • A bill in Idaho that would enhance the state’s capacity to assist schools in providing competency-based pathways was signed into law; another bill, to increase the provision of online career and technical online education courses to Idaho school districts, has been sent to the Governor for signature.
  • A bill in Illinois that would create a Course Access program passed the Senate Education Committee.
  • A bill in Minnesota that would appropriate $180,000 in Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017 to increase online college course offerings has passed the Committee on Civil Law and Data Practices and been referred to the Committee on Government Operations and Election Policy.
  • In Mississippi, a bill that would create Districts of Innovation has been sent to the Governor for a signature.
  • A bill in Utah that would require the Utah State Board of Education to establish minimum competency levels for mathematics readiness for high school graduation has been sent to the Governor for consideration.
  • A student data privacy bill in Tennessee has been scheduled for a hearing.


US Representative Luke Messer (R-IN 6th District) and US Representative Jared Polis (D-CO 2nd District) are preparing to introduce a bill that addresses the role of third party providers in protecting student data privacy and security. The bill was set to be introduced on Monday, March 23, but has been delayed as the sponsors work to gain support from education advocates and address concerns of privacy advocates. The version of the bill that we have seen establishes parameters for the good governance and protection of student data, and specifically states that nothing in the bill should be construed to limit the ability of a provider to use student data for personalized or adaptive instruction. A spokeswoman for the sponsor said the sponsors were working on technical details before formally introducing the measure.


The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium will be held November 8-11, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. Registration opens Tuesday, March 31.

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.