The broadband provider for the troubled Idaho Education Network (IEN) service said today that it will not shut off internet access for Idaho schools this weekend, as they had previously threatened to do. CenturyLink still claims that it is still owed more than $1.5 million stemming from the IEN fiasco, and plans to discontinue service on or about February 27 if the state of Idaho and Education Networks of America do not come through with payments. Century Link issued a statement today to Idaho Education News.
Broadband Bailout Bill Passes the House
An emergency bill crafted by the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC) to prevent schools from losing broadband passed the House by a 68-1 margin. The bill appropriates $3.6 million to the State Department of Education to reimburse school districts for cost incurred in contracting individually with broadband providers. The bill now moves on to the Senate, and would need the signature of Governor Otter in order to become law.
The only dissenting vote was cast by Rep. John Gannon (D-Boise) who admitted that it was a futile “protest” vote. Gannon favors the broadband bailout to keep internet service in Idaho schools, but told House members that he has serious concerns about the IEN contract scandal and wants better oversight of state contracts.
New Projection Shows Sizeable Increase in Student Population
JFAC has approved the revenue projection submitted by the Governor and the Joint Economic Outlook Committee, which shows an increase in student enrollment greater than initial estimates. The new projection shows an increase of 167 new support units (roughly equivalent to one classroom of students), which is substantially higher than the increase of 87 support units originally anticipated by the governor’s office. The potential price tag for the increase could be in the area of $7 million.
As Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls noted in a story by Betsy Russell for the Spokesman Review, Idaho had already underestimated last year’s student enrollment by 50 support units in 2015, so JFAC will have to stretch public education monies even more.
JFAC to Hold Public Hearing Friday Morning
A reminder that JFAC will hold a public hearing on budget-related issues, including public education, Friday morning. The hearing will begin at 8:00 AM in the Lincoln Auditorium at the capitol. People interested in testifying can begin signing in at 7:00 AM for the first-come, first-served discussion. Individual testimony will be limited to three minutes each.