02/19/2011 03:10 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2012

Students Come First Plan Deserves Support in Idaho

Committed to boosting achievement and facing a $300 million shortfall, Idaho school superintendent Tom Luna thinks it a bad idea just to keep cutting programs. His Students Come First plan involves fundamental changes that include a shift to more learning online.

Not surprisingly, there is more visible support for protecting the status quo than supporting Luna's thoughtful approach. The Statesman said, "Opposition to the plan has been heated and widespread, particularly from teachers and parents. At the Senate committee's hearings, opponents outnumbered proponents eight to one. Rallies against the bills are planned across the state on Monday.

Critics suggest Luna is outsourcing to jobs to out of state providers -- that is simply misleading. Luna's rebuttal:

The truth is the Students Come First plan gives local school boards the control to choose an online provider, not the state or the State Superintendent. All these decisions will be made at the local level. Students will be required to take 4 online credits during the course of their high school career, and districts will have many options in how to meet this online learning requirement. Currently, many school districts are using the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) for online learning needs. Districts can choose to continue using IDLA, or they may choose to contract with another online provider that best meets students' needs. Districts may also choose to work with other Idaho public high schools or colleges and universities to share content and provide courses via the Idaho Education Network, a synchronous method of digital learning. Or, a school district can develop a blended model at the local level. These options are currently available to Idaho school districts and will continue to be available under the Students Come First plan in order to meet the online learning requirement.

Even in the case that national providers like Connections Academy or K12 are selected by a student or a school district, many of the teachers will be based in Idaho. However, they won't be limited to Idaho, so students will be able to gain access to great teachers in every advanced subject regardless of where they live.

Luna's proposal that students take an online course each year is a great idea and goes a step beyond Michigan and Alabama that require one online course in high school.

With cheap devices and quality open digital content it makes good academic and financial sense to shift to 1:1 mobile computing. Luna proposed a thoughtful plan.

Digital Learning Now, chaired by former governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise, supports both of these proposals.

Students Come First is a thoughtful plan that will boost achievement, close the fiscal gap, and expand quality educational options for all Idaho students.