Rep. Pam Myhra sees digital education bill pass House

By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

When Rep. Pam Myhra watches pre-kindergartners methodically working their parents’ iPads or smart phones, she sees possibilities. “The potential is really quite amazing,” Myhra said of the digital world impact on education.

Myhra, R-Burnsville, who serves on the House Education Finance Committee, saw her legislation requiring high school students to take at least one course with a digital technology component pass the Republican House on Friday, March 30 on a 96 to 32 vote.

“Digital learning is so exciting,” Myhra said.

It’s a means of tailoring learning to students, allowing them to move at their own speed, she said.

Myhra describes her bill, a graduation requirement for high school seniors beginning in 2017, as flexible.

School districts are allowed to shape the requirement to fit their school districts, she said. This could mean “blended” coursework involving digital and more traditional forms of education.

“It doesn’t have to be a virtual course,” she said, referring to online learning.

Myhra’s bill evoked lengthy debate on the House floor.

Some lawmakers argued the bill failed to recognize that school districts vary in terms of technology.

“You’re basically setting up another achievement gap,” said Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park.

But other lawmakers, such as Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr., DFL-Winona, holding aloft a smart phone, argued the digital revolution could not possibly be ignored.

Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, who serves on the House higher education committee, said digital technology has already profoundly impacted higher education.

“We need to follow this in K-12,” he said.

Myhra, too, said that in the race between digital technology and education it was education straining to keep up.

Myhra has been working on a handful of bills this session, she explained. “This is one of the keys ones,” she said.

The legislation is destined for conference committee with the Senate.