Tom Luna's school Wi-Fi plan disturbs lawmakers
By Josh Altic
Boise, Idaho: Idaho School Superintendent Tom Luna's announcement on July 24 that a 5-15 year contract to provide wireless internet to schools across the state was awarded to Education Networks of America was met with consternation. Lawmakers approved a bill authorizing $2.25 million for school internet, but only for 2013. Many allege that Luna has overstepped his authority by approving this extended contract at $2.1 million per year for a minimum of 5 years.
Idaho Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron (R-27) is among the critics of Luna's awarding this contract and thinks it was an error in judgement on the part of the superintendent. Cameron said that for Luna to claim that the legislature backed a multi-year contract is "certainly a stretch, and perhaps borderline on a lack of honesty." Cameron went on to say, "We did not agree and probably would not have agreed to a multiyear contract during last session, particularly given the financial straits that we believed we were under."
So far 83 high schools in 48 districts have chosen to becom part of the state-wide Wi-Fi contract, which would make the price $25,000 per school. This price would go down if more schools decided to opt into the program.
Luna's spokeswoman Melissa McGrath defended Luna's decision by pointing to an emergency exit clause in the contract. "There's always a clause in any contract that we have where it's renewed every year based on the money we receive from the Legislature," she said. But in light of the original proposal from the Department of Education which dictates that any equipment installed would belong to the company that won the bid, many feel that the state will lose a lot of money if it terminates the contract early. "It sounds to me like we could get into it five years and have many millions of dollars invested, but you're still going to forfeit it if you don't go the full length of the contract," said Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill (R-34). "That just doesn't seem like a prudent way to do it."