BOISE – Idaho Senate Education Chairman John Goedde wants the state to cut off a five- to 15-year sole-source contract with Education Networks of America to set up Wi-Fi networks in every Idaho high school and instead send the $2.25 million a year in funding out to school districts to contract for their own Wi-Fi networks.
“That was a multiyear contract signed with one year’s funding,” said Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene. “I’m really comfortable with a non-appropriation on that, and then I would like to see the money sent down to school districts with a standard, saying the money is theirs to invest in wireless. Anything left over after they meet that standard, they could use for other technology.”
Like all state contracts, the wireless networks contract that state schools Superintendent Tom Luna signed with ENA in August includes a clause saying if the Legislature doesn’t appropriate funds, the contract is void.
Goedde said he has talked with budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee members and other lawmakers about the change of course.
“I believe that there are districts in this state that have the technological expertise and could deploy the wireless equipment on their own, not need the help-desk service, and probably could buy the equipment for less than they’re leasing it for” through the ENA contract, Goedde said.
Other smaller districts may need a full-service package like ENA’s, he said, but ENA is not their only option. “There may be other businesses locally that could provide a comparable package and have it competitively bid,” Goedde said. “It’s very possible that they could save money … and employ more Idaho people.”
Goedde said a key part of his plan is to include a Wi-Fi standard that all the districts would have to meet when they spend the state funds. That would ensure quality service, he said, without a need for a statewide contract.
ENA is based in Nashville, Tenn., and also has a Boise office. ENA officials at both locations were unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Betsy Z. Russell