Community Blog: The EDge

Otter on school WiFi contract: ‘Not necessarily how I would have done it.’

Add Gov. Butch Otter to the roster of Republicans criticizing the controversial high school WiFi contract signed last week by GOP state superintendent Tom Luna.

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Gov. Butch Otter

“It’s not necessarily how I would have done it,” Otter said in a prepared statement Monday afternoon, five days after Luna announced the contract with Education Networks of America.

The contract to install WiFi in Idaho high schools is funded for 2013-14 with a $2.25 million budget line item, approved by the Legislature and signed by Otter. But the contract will run for at least five years. And the state has options to extend the contract to 15 years — at a total value of $33.3 million.

Some key legislators have questioned the deal, saying they did not realize Luna envisioned a multiyear contract. Said Otter:  ”I understand and I agree with the concerns people have expressed over the contract, particularly the character of the money being utilized (one-time funds relative to the ongoing obligation).”

The state is not obligated to fund the contract past 2013-14 — meaning the Legislature could walk away from the agreement at any time.

The ENA contract benefits a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that has contributed heavily to a long list of Idaho politicians — including Luna and Otter.

Otter’s full statement follows.

“I have been and will continue to be supportive of technology in the classroom.

I understand and I agree with the concerns people have expressed over the contract, particularly the character of the money being utilized (one-time funds relative to the ongoing obligation).

The contract is signed and issues specific to it should be taken up with the superintendent and the State Department of Education.  It’s not necessarily how I would have done it.  Going forward I intend to work with Superintendent Luna and the Legislature as we continue to look at ways to improve education in Idaho.”

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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