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Aurora Institute

Course Access Bills Advance: Equitable Access to Opportunities at Risk in Illinois; Sustainable Funding Model Debated in Missouri

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Maria Worthen, Susan Gentz

Issue(s): State Policy, Fund Innovation

Course Access has been the topic of much discussion this week because Course Access bills in Missouri, Illinois, and Texas are being amended as they progress through the legislative process. The important provisions of the Texas bill seem to remain intact as the bill moves forward. Unfortunately, the bills in Missouri and Illinois have been amended to such a degree that in their current forms, they can no longer be called Course Access.

Course Access provides public school students with expanded course offerings across learning environments from diverse, accountable providers. It is a mechanism by which students can gain equitable access to a variety of courses in a programmatic effort to increase access, quality, and equity in public education.

One key aspect of Course Access is that funding for the program is performance-based and follows the student in a sustainable way. The bill in Missouri has been amended to make the program reliant on state appropriations. An appropriation-based funding model for supplemental online courses is not sustainable because (1) it makes the program reliant on the willingness of the state legislature to appropriate the funds each and every year; and (2) it limits student access to the program by limiting the amount of funding available.

Another key aspect of Course Access is that all students can ultimately participate in the program. The Illinois bill gives school districts the choice on whether or not to opt into the program. This means that only a subset of Illinois high school students would be able to access supplemental courses. In a true course access program, all students in a state can benefit from supplemental course opportunities. iNACOL is providing technical assistance to the Illinois House of Representatives to underline the importance of ensuring all public high school students can participate.

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

  • iNACOL is currently tracking 98 bills in 31 states.

Legislative Calendars

  • Florida adjourned May 1, 2015.

Bills on the move

  • A California bill that would appropriate $1 million to train K-12 teachers to more effectively utilize technology and digital resources within their instructional day has been scheduled for a hearing on May 11.
  • The Illinois Course Access bill passed the Senate (with amendments that would no longer qualify the program as true course access program) and has been transmitted to the House Rules Committee.
  • An Indiana bill that would establish “Innovation Network Schools” was passed out of the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for signature.
  • A bill in Missouri that would create a Course Access program passed the House (with changes that would no longer qualify the program as true course access) and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
  • A bill in New Hampshire that would allow more districts to participate in the Performance Assessment for Competency Education (PACE) system of local assessments, which was approved under the US Department of Education’s ESEA flexibility waiver, was expected to be heard on the Senate floor on May 14.
  • An Oklahoma bill that would require the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board to establish a process to review and certify the quality of supplemental online courses has been sent to the Governor.
  • In Texas, a bill that improves students’ access to the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN) could be considered on the Senate floor this week.

Federal Policy Highlights

  • The Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended and passed by the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP), was introduced last week. The bill is 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. In a previous post, we summarized the highlights of this bill for the field of blended, online, and competency education. The bill is expected to go to the full Senate in June.
  • The “‘Protecting Student Privacy Act of 2015” is expected to be reintroduced soon by Senators Markey and Hatch. This bill would amend the “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.” The text is expected to be similar to the bill introduced in the previous Congress (available here).

iNACOL 2015 Blended and Online Learning Symposium

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

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