October 23, 2012 in Idaho

Idaho awards $180M school laptop contract to H-P

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Betsy Russell photo

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter speaks at the Hewlett-Packard plant in Boise Tuesday; at right are the laptop computer models H-P plans to sell Idaho schools under a new $180 million contract
(Full-size photo)

BOISE - Two weeks before the November election, in which Idaho voters could cancel the whole program, the state of Idaho today signed a $180 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard to supply laptop computers to every Idaho high school student.

Von Hansen, vice president and general manager at HP Boise, who joined dignitaries including Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and state schools Superintendent Tom Luna at the H-P plant in Boise to announce the contract, said, “We’re proud to open this new chapter in our relationship with the state. … This is a great honor for H-P.”

If voters turn thumbs down on Proposition 3 in two weeks, the contract will be canceled.

But Luna said, “This train has left the station when it comes to transforming our schools and the 21st century learning opportunity. We’ll see what happens on election day, but it’s not going to stop the transformation that’s happening.”

Mike Lanza, chairman of the Vote No on Props 1,2,3 campaign, said, “I think that the outcome of the election will determine whether anything goes forward.”

Luna pushed sweeping school reforms in three laws, all of which are now being tested by voters in referendum measures, after opponents gathered more than 74,000 signatures to place them on the ballot.

Proposition 1 removes most collective bargaining rights from teachers; Proposition 2 imposes a new merit-pay bonus system; and Proposition 3 requires big technology boosts, including laptops for every high school student and requiring two online classes to graduate, while rewriting state school funding formulas.

Luna pitched his plan, dubbed “Students Come First,” as a way to educate more students at a higher level without spending more. But the shift in funding priorities proved highly controversial.

The laws passed in 2011. Since last spring, the state has been working on selecting a vendor for the computers, but a formal bid process was canceled in June for lack of competitive bids. The state then began negotiating with up to half a dozen providers, before settling today on Hewlett-Packard.

In addition to supplying and maintaining the laptop computers, the contract covers setting up and maintaining a wireless network in every Idaho high school, using broadband connections already supplied by the Idaho Education Network.

State funding formulas and budget figures suggested Idaho expected to spend tens of millions less for the eight-year contract, but state officials said they were happy with the price H-P set. Luna said the contract works out to $249.77 per year per student or teacher for the laptops, with a quarter of them being replaced each year. When the wireless networks and professional development are added in, the average is $292.77.

“It’s close to what we originally budgeted,” Luna said.

Otter hailed the selection of H-P, which long has been one of the Boise area’s largest employers. “It’s a proud moment for me,” he said, “that we had an Idaho company that was the successful bidder and that will lead us into that 21st century classroom.”

Luna said, ““The economic opportunities that it provides this valley and the rest of the state is tremendous.”

Hansen said the notebook computers H-P proposed are a “commercial-grade PC,” with a 14-inch screen, an all-aluminum front and back, and anti-shock technology that will protect the disc drive from damage if dropped. He identified the model as the HP Probook 4440s.

H-P’s successful bid was a partnership that also included Education Networks of America for the wireless networks; Xtreme Consulting Group for tech support; Black Box for hardware fixes; and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy for training.


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