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Frequently Asked Questions for YTTs in Idaho

February 7, 2017

As the largest nonprofit organization representing yoga teachers and schools, Yoga Alliance has a responsibility to protect the practice and instruction of yoga.

Recently, Yoga Alliance has been contacted by Idaho yoga teacher training programs (YTTs) about their interactions with the State Board of Education (Board). The Board has contacted some YTTs asserting that they may be required to comply with regulations meant for schools providing vocational, technical, or professional training.

We have compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions we have received about the status of YTT regulation in Idaho and what Yoga Alliance is doing to support you. We hope these answers are helpful. If your question hasn’t been answered or you want to tell us what you think, we’d love to hear from you at yaadvocacy@yogaalliance.org.

What is the the State Board of Education?

The State Board of Education administers educational laws and regulations in Idaho, including the state’s proprietary schools law. This law requires all “proprietary schools” to register with the Board, comply with administrative regulations, and pay fees to operate in the state. Typically, “proprietary schools” are schools that provide vocational, technical, or professional training, not every activity or program in the state.

Based on the information we have received from our Idaho members and the Board, the Board has never considered YTTs to be “proprietary schools” until recently.

Why has the Board been contacting YTTs? Should they be?

As you know, yoga studios and practitioners host advanced yoga classes that the yoga community refers to as “yoga teacher training programs” or “YTTs.” Yoga Alliance research indicates that most participants in YTTs attend primarily to deepen their personal practice or practice yoga in a group setting, not to earn a living teaching yoga. Despite this, some regulators – usually those who are inexperienced with the practice of yoga – believe that YTTs are “proprietary” or “vocational” schools because the community refers to the programs as “teacher training.” This appears to be what has happened in Idaho. The problem is that this belief doesn’t reflect the reality.

In Idaho and across the country, the vast majority of individuals who lead yoga classes are not full-time instructors and do not earn a living from teaching. While some YTT participants go on to teach classes occasionally or a few times each week, next to none make instruction their “career” or make a living just by teaching yoga. As such YTT programs are best classified as avocational activities, not vocational schools.

Further, YTT programs do not offer degrees, no grades are assigned, and transcripts are not maintained. YTTs are just different – in purpose and nature – from the career schools that the Board otherwise regulates, including private colleges and technical institutes.

What about maintaining the quality of yoga instruction?

We agree that the quality of yoga instruction is important. In fact, Yoga Alliance’s mission is to promote the integrity and diversity of the teaching of yoga.

The Board requirements are aimed at administrative and operational compliance, not on program content or quality. Indeed, the Board itself makes clear that it “does not review or approve proprietary school programs or curriculum.”

What about consumer protection?

One of the Board’s purposes is to protect students of proprietary schools. However, the Board’s mission is to address concerns that are unique to these types of schools. These concerns are not universal to every business that provides a service, group activity, or instruction to participants.

This is why the Board does not – and is not supposed to – regulate every business in the state. The Board has not sought to regulate advanced martial arts, dance, arts, or sports classes, and we’re unaware of any consumer concerns about Idaho YTTs that would require more governmental oversight for YTTs than other similar programs.

What’s more, YTTs – as businesses providing services to consumers – already comply with an array of federal, state, and local consumer protection, anti-unfair-trade-practices, business, and premises safety laws and regulations. Just like every other Idaho business. Nothing that happens with the Board regulations would change the existing framework of consumer protections.

But aren't regulations just a normal part of doing business?

No. Idaho is in the minority here. The majority of states are not actively regulating YTTs as vocational schools.

In states without this type of regulatory environment, there has not been an influx of poorly run YTTs or consumer complaints. In states that have recently rolled back regulatory requirements – like Missouri and Arizona in 2016 – we have not seen a significant rise in the number of YTT programs offered in the state.

The difference is that YTTs in those states aren’t required to pay fees and meet administrative requirements while some Idaho YTTs may be forced to do so.

Why is the yoga community concerned?

Yoga Alliance shares the concerns of many members of Washington’s yoga community that regulating YTTs as "career" schools is unnecessary and harmful to yoga schools, teachers, and consumers.

As you know, most YTTs are small businesses, and the majority are owned and operated by women. The time and expense to comply with Board mandates (e.g., fees ranging into the thousands of dollars; mandatory surety bond; ongoing annual renewal applications) are burdensome and have a detrimental effect on independent studios. Overregulation of yoga businesses dissuades Idaho’s yoga providers from offering or expanding YTT programs, even as yoga becomes more popular in the state.

Moreover, the Board’s extensive and expensive regulations inherently favor large, established studios. This potentially creates an unfair advantage for larger businesses and a barrier to entry for small, independent yoga entrepreneurs.

Because YTTs should not be classified as “vocational schools” in the first place, these regulatory burdens are not accompanied by tangible benefits to schools or consumers.

What is Yoga Alliance doing about this?

Because YTTs should not be classified as “vocational schools” in the first place, these regulatory burdens are not accompanied by tangible benefits to schools or consumers.

We’re pleased to support House Bill 108 to exempt YTTs from proprietary school regulation. The purpose of this legislation is to clarify that YTTs are not like the schools that the state is supposed to be regulating, and that yoga programs have different needs than those addressed by the Board.

What happens next in Idaho? How can I get involved? How can I share my thoughts?

Over the coming weeks, we will continue working with you to protect the interests of YTTs and support a thriving yoga community in Idaho, but we’ll need your support. We’ll keep you up to date on major developments and opportunities to get involved, share your experiences, and make your voices heard to Idaho’s decision makers.

We also want to hear from you. If you have questions, concerns, or want to let us know what you think, please reach out at yaadvocacy@yogaalliance.org.

What else is Yoga Alliance working on?

For more on Yoga Alliance’s activities in other states and around the world, please view our Advocacy in Action page.

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