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Eye On Boise

Arguments on high school WiFi funding: ‘They voluntarily opted in’

Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, is arguing for Option 1 on high school WiFi network funding – which would let school districts opt out of the statewide contract with Education Networks of America if they want, and get state funding for their own networks. Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, is arguing for Option 1, which would continue the statewide contract and pay districts that didn’t sign on for that, but not give any funding to districts that already are in the contract but don’t want to continue.

Mortimer said, “They voluntarily opted in, they said they were willing to work with the state. ... They all said, ‘This is what we want.’” He said, “I believe that in good faith the state put forth the contract, the districts opted in, and it is important to keep that contract.”

Cameron said, “In discussing this with our legal counsel, the least expensive option is to fund the contract and do nothing else.” But that doesn’t do anything for those districts that opted not to participate, he noted, or those that aren’t satisfied with the services they get.

Cameron’s proposal calls for a “service audit” to see what services are being provided where, what they cost, and how satisfied districts are with them. Then, he said, next year the state can decide what it wants to do about the contract, with full information at hand. He noted that the funding, like this year’s funding, is one-time only – meaning JFAC will have to consider it again next year. “There’s a fundamental difference between the two options, although the good news is we’re talking about wireless for all the schools,” Cameron said.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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