E-learning rules differ by state. Here’s where Nebraska and Iowa stand.

E-learning rules differ by state. Here’s where Nebraska and Iowa stand.

The new social distancing requirement poses the same problem to every school district across the country.  How do you educate kids while preserving public health?

While the problem is the same in all states, not all states are reacting the same way. Some are not even equipped with the same tools to manage it. On either side of the Missouri River, what districts can do can looks very different.

Gov. Ricketts announced yesterday that students will complete the spring semester by taking classes through online instruction. This does give districts some flexibility in how they deliver this type of education. Some districts, like Lincoln Public Schools, have decided to abandon letter grades in lieu of a pass/fail system for middle and high school students.

While all the districts in Nebraska are working out the kinks related to distance learning, some states don’t have the tools to continue educating students. Iowa is not allowing “e-learning” teaching to count for students during the closure due to COVID-19.

Schools on the eastern side of the river have been given learning opportunities and have been allowed to take learning materials to their homes, but the work cannot be mandated.

“They won’t allow it to count towards the school year so because of that we won’t go out and do e-learning,” Embray, superintendent for Glenwood Community Public Schools said. “It won’t count so we could be setting ourselves up for lawsuits from parents that we didn’t meet their child’s needs. If we’re not going to have the state backing us during this crisis then we’re not going to be exposed so we cancelled the e-learning option.”

This is because in Iowa the state needs to approve providers of online education. Pre-COVID-19 only three districts had approval. There have been discussions at the Iowa Department of Education about the issue statewide and Gov. Reynolds is scheduled to hold a press conference to address this concern of many parents across the Hawkeye State.

While Nebraska doesn’t have all the details worked out for its virtual learning, they at least have a framework that is operational. Iowa has very strict restrictions on their virtual learning, and now they are paying the price for overly-burdensome regulations.  Many of us frequently think about regulation hurting the private sector, but this is a great example of how regulations can hurt government, and in this case schools, and the ability for children to learn.

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