Nonini pushes for STEM high school diploma

A North Idaho senator wants to create a “STEM diploma,” recognizing high school graduates who take extra classes in science, technology, engineering and math.

Sen. Bob Nonini says a STEM diploma would help high school graduates bolster their college applications, scholarship applications and resumes. And Nonini — a lieutenant governor’s candidate who pushed to create Idaho STEM Action Center in 2015 — says a stamp on a diploma would continue the state’s “aggressive” campaign to encourage students to pursue the STEM disciplines.

“I still want us to be a leader in that regard,” Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, told the Senate Education Committee Thursday.

Senate Bill 1267 would apply to high school graduates who earn eight credits in math and eight credits in science (students must take six credits in each discipline in order to graduate) plus an additional five credits in the STEM fields.

It’s at least a new-to-Nonini concept. He told committee members that he knew of no other states offering a STEM diploma. Moments later, STEM Action Center Executive Director Angela Hemingway testified on the bill — and said, after a quick Google search, that she learned that Ohio and Colorado offer STEM diploma designations.

If SB 1267 passes, the new designation would go on the books immediately. The idea is to make sure 2018 graduates can qualify, Nonini said.

SB 1267 is on its way to the Senate floor for amendment.

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Remote testimony pilot project grounded

The House Education Committee shelved the debut of a new remote testimony pilot project Thursday, because no one signed up to participate.

Last month, Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, announced her committee would accept remote testimony on two bills, including one encouraging schools to offer firearms safety courses.

Normally, anyone who wishes to testify before the Legislature must travel to Boise and testify in person. But Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, R-Genesee, and VanOrden, R-Pingree, said remote testimony would increase transparency and open up participation to Idahoans who live outside of the Treasure Valley.

Under the pilot program, residents can travel to one of six locations and testify live, via videoconferencing hookups.

However, nobody signed up in time to testify Thursday. Apparently, there was some confusion over procedure. VanOrden and House Education’s secretary said residents needed to sign up 48 hours before Thursday’s hearing.

As a result, VanOrden also postponed the hearing on House Bill 443, the firearms training bill.

After Thursday’s hearing, VanOrden said she will reschedule the hearing on the firearms safety bill, and she still hopes to test out the remote testimony pilot project later this year.

So far, the new schedule has not been announced.

Funeral absences

In other action Thursday, House Education approved a bill to give students an excused absence if they missed class to perform “Taps” at a military honors funeral.

There was some debate over whether a state law was needed to address the issue, but House Bill 415 passed out of the committee easily. It next heads to the House floor for consideration.

Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report.

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