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WiFi roundup: CdA buys local; does the contract raid reform money?

A couple of dispatches on the ever-unfolding WiFi contract story:

Coeur d’Alene buys local. One of Idaho’s largest school districts is passing up on the joining the state’s WiFi network. The district will cut its own contract, reports Maureen Dolan of the Coeur d’Alene Press.

And here’s the kicker: the Coeur d’Alene district will give its business to Ednetics, a Post Falls company. Ednetics was one of the unsuccessful suitors for the statewide contract — awarded last week to Nashville, Tenn.-based Education Networks of America, at a cost of $2.1 million a year.

The Ednetics contract will cost the Coeur d’Alene district $278,000, Dolan reports, and will come from a $32.7 million building bond issue approved in 2012.

Speaking Monday to district superintendents in Boise, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna touted the state-funded WiFi deal as a potential money-saver for local schools. Signing on with the state network would free up local dollars for other purposes, Luna said.

A raid of one-time money? Speaking of state money, the Spokane Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell reports that this funding comes from $34 million that had been earmarked for Gov. Butch Otter’s education reform task force.

The 2013 Legislature set aside the money to bankroll the task force’s recommendations, which could be presented to Otter in August. So the Legislature put $34 million into one-time merit pay and technology programs.

Defending the WiFi contract — which could run 15 years and cost the state $33.3 million — Luna has said the state routinely signs multiyear contracts that the Legislature can decide to fund, or not fund. But Legislative Budget Director Cathy Holland-Smith told Russell that she can’t recall a state agency signing a multiyear contract based on a one-time appropriation — and she’s been on the job since 1994.

More reading: Winning bidder on the WiFi contract touts its Idaho, political ties.

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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