A bill, SSB 3030, allowing families that homeschool under competent private instruction or independent private instruction to utilize the Iowa Learning Online Initiative cleared another hurdle this week when it passed through the Iowa Senate Education Committee by voice vote on Monday.

A subcommittee consisting of State Senators Larry Edler (R-State Center), Thomas Greene (R-Burlington), and Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) recommended passage of the bill last Thursday.

Iowa Learning Online, according to its website, is “an Iowa Department of Education initiative designed to help local Iowa school districts expand learning opportunities for their high school students through high quality, rigorous courses delivered online.”

This program was designed to help high school students that had schedule conflicts with other classes they needed. It was also designed to allow local schools to provide courses or advanced subjects that otherwise would not be available.

Homeschool students who dual-enroll with their local school district can already use the program.

The classes offered this semester include:

English

  • English 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • English 2 (Segment 1, 2)
  • English 3 (Segment 1, 2)
  • English 4 (Segment 1, 2)

Fine Arts

  • Art History & Criticism (Segment 1, 2)

Health/Physical Education

  • Health (Segment 1, 2)
  • Personal Fitness (Segments 1, 2)

Mathematics

  • Algebra 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Algebra 2 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Calculus (Segment 1, 2)
  • Geometry (Segment 1, 2)
  • Pre-calculus (Segment 1, 2)
  • Trigonometry

Science

  • Biology (Segment 1, 2)
  • Chemistry (Segment 1, 2)
  • Earth-Space (Segments 1, 2)
  • Marine Science (Segments 1, 2)
  • Physics (Segments 1, 2)
  • Physical Science (Segment 1, 2)

Social Studies

  • Economics
  • Geography (Segment 1, 2)
  • US Government
  • Psychology
  • US History (Segments 1, 2)
  • World History (Segment 1, 2)

World Languages

  • Chinese 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Chinese 2 (Segment 1)
  • French 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • French 2 (Segment 1, 2)
  • French 3 (Segment 1, 2)
  • French 4 (Segment 1, 2)
  • German 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • German 2 (Segment 1, 2)
  • German 3 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Latin 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Latin 2 (Segment 1)
  • Spanish 1 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Spanish 2 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Spanish 3 (Segment 1, 2)
  • Spanish 4 (Segment 1, 2)

The current enrollment fee per student is $260.

The Iowa Department of Education proposed this bill. So far no outside organizations have registered opposition or

Thoughts: This could be a valuable tool for some homeschooling parents who need assistance providing certain courses for their students, especially if there is not an educational co-op available or if private online courses are too costly. The Iowa Department of Education will determine the course fee for homeschooling students. The current enrollment fee is less than what my family has paid for private online classes.

It should be noted that classes for subject covered by the Iowa Core (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies) will be aligned to those standards (Iowa’s math and ELA standards are Common Core, Iowa’s science standards are the Next Generation Science Standards). Currently, students under independent private instruction can not dual-enroll. Also, potential data collection may be of concern for families that utilize ILO if the bill should pass into law.

The bill does not require any additional reporting or accountability requirement beyond what is required under Iowa law for the homeschooling option the family selected at the start of the school year.

Needless to say, the same concerns many Christian homeschooling parents may have about dual enrollment would apply to online learning as well. Families concerned about how much time their student spends in front of a screen will have to consider that as well.

Obviously, each family will have to decide what’s best for their student.

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