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Two Electronic High School bills clear house committee

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 9:40 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — The House Standing Education Committee passed two bills onto the full House that extend the state's Electronic High School, as well as offering other options for online coursework.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of HB336, which continues the Electronic High School as an online option for students separate from the statewide Online Education Program. The committee also voted 9-2 in favor of HB147, which extends the life of the Electronic High School as well as setting provisions for districts and charter schools to contract with outside providers for online courses.

Much of the bills' language was in response legislation last year that would have cut off direct funding for the Electronic High School at the end of the current academic year.

By existing outside of the state's online education program, the Electronic High School allows students to take courses required for graduation in addition to their at-school class schedule, allowing students greater flexibility for release time, extracurricular activities like sports, Advanced Placement and concurrent enrollment courses, or the ability to catch up lost class time to do injury or health concerns.

"I hope by whatever means the Electronic High School will continue to serve students," State Deputy Superintendent Martell Menlove said before the vote.

Menlove said there are currently 5,000 students enrolled in courses in the Electronic High School, in addition to another 5,000 students receiving credit from the Online Education Program and some 250 students taking advantage of private online courses recognized by school districts.

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, R-Orem, who sponsored HB336 spoke to the committee about the flexibility that the Electronic High School provides to students and said it would be a "tragedy" if the program did not continue.

The second bill, HB147, was described by its sponsor, Rep. Bradley Last, R-Hurricane, as an attempt to achieve a "happy medium" between offering diverse online options without incurring excessive costs. The bill mandates that school districts and charter schools contract with at least one outside provider — whether that be a consortium of districts or an entity from the private sector — to provide additional online education courses.

Davis and Granite districts spoke in favor of the bill, while Royce Van Tassell, of the Utah Taxpayers Association, testified that it did not go far enough to ensure a wide breadth of online options for Utah students, especially for those living in smaller, rural districts.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com

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