In the News: Microschooling in IdahoBy Nicole Basurto Brown -
In a new Manhattan Institute issue brief—the first of a four-part series on microschooling—HCM senior affiliate Jocelyn Pickford and K-12 director Duncan Robb examine Idaho’s evolving experiences with microschools, which offer much of the flexibility and autonomy of homeschool along with many of the pedagogical and social benefits of traditional school.
Pickford and Robb define microschools (also sometimes known as learning pods) as a small group of students from several families taught by one or a few dedicated educators. This option gives parents a say in scheduling, curriculum, and instructional strategy while also providing students with a skilled educator. The policy priorities of microschool parents differ from those of homeschoolers. While many homeschool parents are skeptical of any state aid under the assumption that public funds will come with strings attached, microschooling parents are typically used to accessing public school services and thus more likely to welcome it.
Lawmakers in Idaho recently considered two different options for funding microschools during their 2021 session. House Bill 294 would have granted more education scholarships or grants to provide parents with more flexible education spending. Opponents feared the funds would take away from school districts, so this “outside-the-system” approach, like its predecessors, failed. Instead, the Idaho legislature went with an “inside-the-system” option and, in May of 2021, Governor Brad Little signed Senate Bill 1046 into law. The bill allows a school district and a group of parents to come together to create an “innovation classroom” located within a traditional public school. With this agreement, families are able to create a small learning community wherein their children learn from a specific teacher using their chosen curriculum, while remaining part of the public school district and thus able to participate in extracurricular activities and receive eligible supports. For states looking for ways to give families more of a say in what and how students learn, Idaho’s solution provides an exciting case study.
To read the full brief, click here: Microschooling in Idaho: Using Policy to Scale a New Type of Small-School Environment.
- Interview with the John Locke Foundation
- Idaho Statesman: Innovation Classrooms Provide New Path for Public Education
- Carolina Journal: Jocelyn Pickford and Duncan Robb assess Manhattan Institute report on microschooling in Idaho
- IdahoEDnews.org: Microschools have popped up in Idaho, but in unknown numbers