State officials say the plan to supply the first laptop computers of a multi-year phase-in aimed at getting one to every Idaho high school student is on track for fall, despite hitting a snag last month when the state canceled bidding for insufficient response and instead opted to negotiate directly with providers. “We are still on track to meet the program's original delivery objectives with the first wave of mobile computing devices reaching schools this fall,” the state Department of Administration advised the state Department of Education ina memo late last week, the AP reports; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.
State agency says school laptop program on track
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State officials negotiating to supply every high school teacher and student with a laptop under Idaho's contested education reforms report that they're still on track to get the program started this fall — even after hitting a snag last month.
The laptop program will be rolled out over five years with an estimated $60 million price tag and is one of the most visible pieces of public schools chief Tom Luna's “Students Come First” reforms, which face a test on the November ballot.
Idaho officials abandoned the original bidding process meant to provide the laptop devices in late June, citing insufficient competition. As a result, the state Department of Administration is negotiating directly with providers of computers and services for the devices.
The agency updated the state Department of Education in a memo late last week.
“Negotiations are proceeding as planned, and we hope to conclude with a signed contract in the near term,” said agency administrator Bill Burns in his letter Thursday. The note was also sent to members of Luna's technology task force who were charged with making recommendations on the laptop program.
“We are still on track to meet the program's original delivery objectives with the first wave of mobile computing devices reaching schools this fall,” Burns said.
Teachers are supposed to get the devices during the upcoming school year while students will receive the devices starting in 2013. Under the reforms, Idaho is also becoming the first state in the nation to require high school students to take at least two credits online to graduate.
At the ballot box, voters will be asked to approve or reject the three laws that make up Luna's reform plan. Critics collected more than 74,000 signatures on each of three petitions last spring to put Proposition 1, Proposition 2 and Proposition 3 to a vote.
Proposition 1 relates to the part of the reforms that limits teacher collective bargaining and phases out continuing contracts often likened to tenure. Proposition 2 includes the merit pay plan that awards teachers bonuses for raising student achievement, taking on hard-to-fill positions or leadership roles.
Proposition 3 is the technology piece of the reform package and includes the laptop program and online requirement.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.