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Aurora Institute

iNACOL Policy Update – Bill Movement Takes Center Stage

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Kathryn Kennedy

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Harness Opportunities in ESSA, State Policy, Create Enabling Conditions for Competency-Based Education

February 27 – March 5, 2015

March is a busy month in state legislatures—some are adjourning, some are convening, some have committee deadlines, and others are simply in a flurry of legislation. As always, we are here to keep you updated on the comings and goings of important legislation and will keep you informed on the actions of 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 and enablers, to identify barriers and to 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 71 bills in 27 states.

Legislative Calendars and Deadlines

  • Virginia adjourned for the 2015 session on February 27, 2015.
  • Alabama and Florida convened on March 3, 2015.
  • Iowa has a committee deadline, which means any bills that have not passed the committee of referral, in both the House and Senate, will no longer be eligible for consideration during the 2015 session.

New Legislation

  • A bill in California would change the required amount of instructional time in a physical location of a charter school from 80% to 60%, while another bill there would establish a $1,000,000 pilot program for teacher professional development for effective use of technology and digital resources.
  • A bill in Florida would establish technology infrastructure standards and targets for the successful implementation of digital classrooms in public schools.
  • In Missouri, a bill has been introduced that would prohibit non-governmental agencies from accessing student data.
  • A bill in Montana would allow for the establishment of public charter schools—including virtual public charter schools—in the state.
  • In Texas, a bill allows full-time enrollment in courses through the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN) for certain eligible students. Another bill in Texas makes changes to the TxVSN, allowing students to enroll in more than one online course, and removing the restriction on taking a course online if a student’s district offers a similar course.

Bills on the move

  • The Missouri Course Access bill is scheduled to be heard before the House Education Committee on March 9, 2015.
  • A bill in West Virginia that allows for the creation of charter schools but prohibits virtual charters explicitly has passed the first chamber, the Senate, and has been referred to the House Education Committee.
  • The Governor of Idaho signed into law a $3.6 million appropriation for schools to pay for broadband internet access.
  • An Idaho bill requiring 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 has passed the Senate.
  • A bill in Kentucky that 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 has passed the House and been referred to the Senate.
  • A bill in Mississippi that would create “Districts of Innovation” and allow for competency-based pathways has passed the Education Committee in the second chamber, which is the House.
  • A student data privacy bill in Iowa has passed out of subcommittee.


  • New Hampshire Waiver Approval – On Thursday, the US Department of Education approved an ESEA flexibility waiver for the state of New Hampshire. The approval gives the state permission to pilot the Performance Assessment of Competency Education (PACE) with four school districts. New Hampshire will have two years to demonstrate that the pilot is a success, or revert to administering the Smarter Balanced Assessment. For more details, see the letter from Assistant Secretary Deborah Delisle approving the waiver.
  • ESEA on Hold in the House –Last week, we wrote that the US House of Representatives was expected to vote on and pass H.R. 5, the Student Success Act (the bill to reauthorize ESEA) on Friday, February 27. However, on Friday we learned that the House GOP had hit a roadblock finding enough votes within its ranks to assure passage and officially postponed the vote. The issue at hand is whether or not the bill goes far enough to limit the federal role in education.
  • ESEA Progress in the Senate? –With ESEA reauthorization’s future uncertain in the House, attention has turned once more to the Senate, where HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) are still negotiating a bipartisan bill. There has been some interest in the idea of a pilot program that would allow a limited number of states to develop systems of assessments that align to and enable competency-based learning. We’ve heard that an Alexander-Murray proposal on Title I may be forthcoming. For more information on this pilot, see our recommendations to enable competency education in ESEA, issued jointly with KnowledgeWorks.


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.