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Idaho Board Follows Voters in Rejecting Laptop Initiative

by guest blogger Mike Bock

As expected, Idaho's State Board of Education voted 7-1 against a $180 million school laptop initiative and a requirement that each high school student complete two online courses before graduation, officially bringing an end to the measure. Sixty-seven percent of Idahoans voted against the technology proposal on Election Day in a referendum on a school reform law passed by the state legislature last year with the backing of State Superintendent Tom Luna and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.

The vote officially ended a chaotic push to bring the bills into law, with more than $6 million spent on both sides of the referendum campaign. Proponents of the school reform measure said voters were likely influenced by the opposition's framing that laptops would replace teachers, since the laptop initiative was bundled with a plan to phase out teacher tenure and institute performance-based pay for teachers.

But with 1-to-1 technology initiatives growing in popularity across the country, Idaho could still see a technology initiative adopted by voters. The Associated Press reported that nearly all of the Idaho state board members said some Internet-learning mandate was necessary to prepare public school students for the work force.

With many more battles over 1-to-1 funding and similar e-learning initiatives on the horizon, educators might be advised to examine the administrative, funding, and policy issues surrounding this form of education. Education Week covered these topics and more in last month's special report on e-learning.

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