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‘We want to sit down with our elected leaders, and that includes Supt. Luna’

Mike Lanza, a Boise father of two who chaired the "No on Props 1,2,3" campaign, said today, "I first got involved in this effort because I have a couple of elementary kids and that was my entire motivation for getting involved. … This election was not a vote against better schools, quite to the contrary. This outcome was a statement by voters that we care very deeply about Idaho's public schools." He said, "Let's be clear about the mandate from voters," listing five points:

* "Idaho's voters believe in local control of public schools and reject any top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates from the state."
* "We believe that every student deserves to have an excellent teacher, and reject the notion of cutting teachers and increasing class sizes in order to pay for unproven technological education fixes."
* "We believe in the fundamental fairness of a collaborative benefit for everyone of giving our teachers a full voice in how our schools are managed, through the local negotiations process, including on matters beyond pay and benefits."
* "We believe we should invest in the classroom and reject the idea than an unfunded and unproven merit pay plan can improve student achievement."
* "And we believe that all stakeholders in education should be brought to the table to engage in a real and an honest process of figuring out how to improve Idaho's public schools."

Said Lanza, "Most of all in this election, voters said overwhelmingly our elected leaders must be held accountable to the public." At that point, he was interrupted by applause. "We want to sit down with our elected leaders, and that includes Supt. Luna," Lanza said, "and begin the hard work that is required to forge real education reform."

Maria Greeley, a Boise mom and co-founder of the campaign with Lanza, said, "The Luna laws were divisive and destructive, but there is a positive outcome. We have learned how important it is for all citizens to remain engaged in education. We know what we don't want, and by contrast, we have learned what we do want. We want transparency. We want collaboration. We want politics kept out of education. We want the input from our educators. We want our locally elected school boards to determine what is best for each district. And we want to know that our teachers are valued. It is now time to start healing and moving forward."
  

IEA chief: ‘Together we can be a model of reform for the nation’

Leaders of the successful campaign to overturn state schools Superintendent Tom Luna's "Students Come First" school reform laws gathered in front of Boise High School today to talk about what's next. "This debate has never been about union control of schools," said Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association, and also a mother of four and 28-year teacher in the Moscow School District. "This debate has been about what's best for the students, educators and Idaho's public schools." She added, "Now that the voters have spoken, it's up to us, the adults, to model … for our students how grownups with diverse views can come together and put their differences aside and go forward. … I urge lawmakers and other elected leaders and policy makers to meet us at the table, to begin the conversation about what is best for Idaho's students and Idaho's schools. We believe that together we can be a model of reform for the nation."

Luna: ‘I do not believe any Idahoan wants to go back to system we had 2 years ago’

After all three of his "Students Come First" school reform measures were soundly defeated by Idaho voters yesterday, state schools Superintendent Tom Luna issued this statement this morning:

“I still believe that Idahoans want better schools through education reform. I still believe that empowering local school boards, phasing out tenure, giving parents input on evaluations, helping students take dual credit, paying teachers for more than just years of experience and amount of education, and making sure every classroom is a 21st  Century Classroom are critical if we want an education system that meets the needs of every child. We have now had a 22-month discussion about what this should look like. I understand Idahoans have expressed concerns, yet I do not believe any Idahoan wants to go back to the status quo system we had two years ago. I am as committed as anyone to finding a way to make this happen. We must find a way because our children’s future is at stake.”
  

All three school reform measures fail

With 93 percent of the vote counted, all three "Students Come First" school reform measures are being soundly defeated. That means the laws passed amid much controversy in 2011 are repealed. Here's where they stand:

Proposition 1: 42.8% yes, 57.2% no
Proposition 2: 42.1 percent yes, 57.9 percent no
Proposition 3: 33.4 percent yes, 66.6 percent no

‘Buyout’ clause in laptop contract is not just a contingency, it’s a required cost

It turns out that the "buyout" clause in the $182 million laptop contract is not what the State Department of Education originally described - a  cost that "is only paid if the contract is severed for some reason" and "may or may not be paid." In response to my repeated inquiries, after I found no reference to such an early-cancellation buyout fee in the contract, SDE spokeswoman Melissa McGrath told me this afternoon, "That would be my error." Instead, the "buyout" clause is the amount the state would have to pay at the end of the contract term - after it's run its full eight years - to buy out the remaining years in the four-year leases on the laptops, for those with years remaining. That means it's definitely a cost that will remain part of the total.

I'm still awaiting answers as to why the amount estimated by the department, $14.2 million, doesn't match up to the amount of remaining lease payments times the number of units, which comes to $21.9 million. If that's the required buyout at the end of the term, the total contract cost is nearly $190 million - $189,687,228 - not the $181,935,125 the department estimates.

McGrath said the difference in amount comes because the state is scheduled to pay the laptop leases in two semi-annual installments each year, with the two payments together totaling $292.77 per unit per year. "The $14.2 million figure was an estimate HP provided for us," McGrath said in an email. "The $21 million calculation would have been based on the full cost of the buyout, yet since the state is doing semi-annual payments with HP, it will only pay half of these costs at the end of 8 years."

Here's my problem with that logic: Whether you pay in two installments or a single piece, you still pay the same amount. The state's estimates show no additional payment in Year 8 for the first half of the buyouts; costs for Year 8 are estimated at $26,459,382, the exact same amount as for years 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the contract, an amount that's exactly equal to the estimated 90,376 laptops times $292.77.

McGrath, who is checking back once again with the SDE's accounting department and will get back to me, said, "I believe either it's already factored in or it's not getting paid. This is the full amount of the contract."

Incidentally, the contract also allows for up to a 4 percent increase in the $292.77 rate after the first four years, if HP can provide "full justification as to why the adjustment is necessary." If that full 4 percent increase were approved at that point, it would add another $4.2 million to cost of the eight-year contract.

Former state official would play key role under laptop contract

The state's $182 million, eight-year contract for laptop computers for high school students includes information about key staffers for the companies that partnered in the successful bid, including Hewlett-Packard, Education Networks of America and Xtreme Consulting. Among them is a familiar name: Garry Lough, Idaho director of customer services for ENA. Until March 2 of this year, Lough was a state of Idaho employee, working for the state Department of Education and the Department of Administration as communications director for the Idaho Education Network.

The IEN is a state project that provides a broadband connection to every Idaho high school; despite a lawsuit from other bidders, ENA and partner Qwest, now CenturyLink, won the multimillion-dollar statewide contract in 2009. Now, it has a continuing $8 million annual contract to operate the network for the state.

Lough is a former Idaho Republican Party executive director who went to work for the state in 2007 as  a legislative liaison for the State Department of Education after a stint with the state controller's office. According to state records, during his five years with the state, his pay rose from about $65,000 a year to about $72,800 a year.

Now, Lough is in a key position as ENA is a subcontractor with Hewlett-Packard in the laptop computer contract, with ENA in charge of setting up and operating wireless networks in every Idaho high school, using that same broadband connection the firm already helped bring to the schools with the IEN. "I think it'll be a great asset to the state," Lough said. "We have great relationships to a lot of the schools, we've demonstrated success." He said the IEN project came in below budget and a year ahead of schedule. "And I think that same effort and deliverable is going to be executed (in the new project), if everything can proceed as we'd like it to."

As for his move from the state to ENA, "It was just a good timing and there were some synergies there," said Lough, who holds a degree in international studies from Idaho State University. "Basically they had a national guy that was here a lot, and it was just becoming too costly." In addition to working on the Idaho project, Lough is working on an ENA bid for a major school network project in Wyoming. "My job as director of customer services is to ensure that all the end users, the customers of the IEN, are being served optimally," he said, "and also to pursue other opportunities in other states." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
  

Expert on laptop contract: ‘A really complex deal’

I spoke last night with Leslie Fiering, research vice president for Gartner Inc., a leading market research and advisory firm focusing on the information technology industry and a recognized expert in major IT acquisitions, about Idaho's $182 million laptop contract. She said lease deals are not uncommon, and said she couldn't say if it's a good deal or not for the state. "It's a really complex deal," she said. But she pointed to a plus for the state: "They have a built-in refresh," meaning the deal automatically calls for the laptops to be replaced every four years. "So that means that they're not struggling to keep old equipment going. It means that they're not scrambling to pull up capital budget every year, which could then get cut. Assuming they could keep this funded, it gives them a secure basis for operations."

She added, "I work with school districts on a regular basis who are tying themselves into knots trying to figure out how they're going to get these devices into the hands of kids."

On the down side for the state, she said, "There is liability on the accidental breakage," which Fiering said could prove "contentious." She said, "Kids are very tough on the machines. … I used to joke that the kids were second only to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in how rough they are on their computers, and I was corrected by the hardware manufacturers, the maintenance organizations and the school districts that I work with that I was wrong, the kids are worse than the soldiers. So I can understand why H-P did that to protect themselves."

$182M laptop contract is just for rental, not purchase

Idaho's newly inked $182 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard Co. for laptop computers for its high school students contains a surprising feature - the state won't actually own the computers, and if they're lost, damaged or stolen, it'll have to pay H-P for them. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com. The contract price is $292.77 per year per laptop, with each unit on a four-year replacement schedule. That means over the four years, the state will pay $1,171 per unit, including wireless networks and training as well as the laptops themselves.

H-P, in the contract, agrees to provide a full manufacturer's warranty on the laptops for four years. An example: If the hard drive went out in the third year, they'd replace it. But they wouldn't cover accidental loss, damage or theft. State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said the state doesn't expect much in the way of such losses. “In speaking with other schools and the state of Maine that have fully implemented one-to-one programs, they estimate just about 1 percent of devices a year, if even that, must be replaced or repaired outside the warranty,” she said. “We do not believe Idaho will be any different.”
 


Supplying every Idaho high school student with a laptop computer is a centerpiece of Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna's "Students Come First" school reform plan, which goes before voters next week in three ballot measures. If voters reject Proposition 3, the laptop contract would be canceled. Luna has touted the contract as a bargain for the state; a copy was obtained by The Spokesman-Review on Tuesday under the Idaho Public Records Law.

Contract: State must pay if laptops are damaged, lost or stolen

Here's a surprising feature of the state's new $182 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard for laptop computers for high school students: The company will retain title to the computers, and the state, which will just be renting them, will be liable for all risk of loss, including damage or theft. The contract, in Attachment 1 on Page 5, says, "Lessee," which in this case is the state, "shall bear the entire risk of loss with respect to any asset damage, destruction, loss, theft, or governmental taking, whether partial or complete." If a laptop is damaged, the state must have it repaired at state expense - within 60 days. If one is lost or stolen, the state would have to pay H-P for it.

The amount the state would have to pay would be the "casualty value," which would be, "All amounts due to date of payment plus the remaining payments for the balance of the Schedule term plus $35." The schedule term? Four years. The state has contracted to pay $292.77 per unit per year, with each unit on a four-year replacement schedule; that means over the four years, the state will pay $1,171 per unit.

State Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath said the state doesn't expect much in the way of such losses. "In speaking with other schools and the state of Maine that have fully implemented one-to-one programs, they estimate just about 1 percent of devices a year, if even that, must be replaced or repaired outside the warranty," she said. "We do not believe Idaho will be any different."

H-P, in the contract, agrees to provide a full manufacturer's warranty on the laptops for four years. An example: If the hard drive went out in the third year, they'd replace it. But they wouldn't cover accidental loss, damage or theft. In fact, H-P writes in its proposal that it "strongly recommends" an optional one-year accidental damage protection service that it provides for new laptops at a cost of $17 apiece. That's not covered by the contract, however. Neither is an optional service that would cover "No-Fault Replacement Service" for the computers. Schools or districts could purchase that additional service at a price of $4,750 for 10 incidents, according to the contract.

The contract includes a provision that H-P will provide extra units - 3 percent beyond those ordered - for "hot-spare replacement units." That would allow a student whose computer stops working to get an immediate replacement, while the non-working one goes in for repair. But that's only for items covered by the manufacturer's warranty. "Those not covered under the four-year warranty would be in addition to the contract," McGrath said.
  

What the contract says…

I'm still awaiting answers from the State Department of Education to a series of questions I had after reviewing the $182 million, eight-year contract between the state of Idaho and Hewlett-Packard Co. for laptop computers. But one thing is clear: The state's not getting the laptops for $249 apiece.

A fact sheet the department distributed on the day the contract was signed said, "Idaho is paying $249.77 per student/teacher for the managed service of providing the device, maintenance, security and technology support. If you include wireless infrastructure and professional development, the state is paying $292.77 per student/teacher."

According to the contract, the state will pay $292.77 per laptop per year under a lease, and they're on a four-year replacement schedule. That means over the four years, the state will pay $1,171 per unit. At the end of the four years, the state is obligated to wipe the data from the laptops and let H-P pick them up, unless it wants to buy the units for $35 apiece. It also would have the option of buying them before the four years are up at various discounts: $147.56 after three years; $260.12 after two years; or $372.68 after one year.

Melissa McGrath, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education, disputes the $1,171-per-unit figure, because the $292.77 is a "fully burdened" cost per unit that includes tech support, wireless system maintenance, training and more. (However, in addition to the $292.77 per unit per year, the contract calls for the state to pay H-P $5.5 million for "infrastructure and project startup cost.")

"It's not just one device and you're paying for it every single year to get that device - you're paying for a lot more than that," McGrath said. If you use the department's $249.77 figure instead, the state's cost per laptop would be $999 over the four-year period.

The $180 million-plus laptop contract…

Here it is - the $181,935,125 eight-year contract that the state of Idaho has signed with Hewlett-Packard Co. to supply laptop computers to every Idaho high school student and teacher. It may take a bit to load, but you can see the full contract here; it's 362 pages, making a rather large pdf. Some portions have been redacted "relating to HP trade secrets." In response to my public records request, the State Department of Education provided the contract on paper only, saying, "the file was far too large to send electronically." I took it straight to Kinko's, where my newspaper paid to have it scanned it so I could post it here for you to see.

Ad Watch: Latest ad charges school reform laws hamper teachers

The latest campaign commercial opposing Idaho's school reform ballot measures draws on a variety of criticisms of the measures to suggest they hamper teachers in doing their jobs. "We want to give your children the best education - but the Luna laws make that harder," says the ad, which is airing statewide, including in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. The ad cites an array of criticisms of the measures, some directly related to the propositions and others more general, from school funding issues to parent fees.

"You have significant number of undecided, and I expect to some extent, bewildered voters who are trying to sort all of this out," said Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at Boise State University. "I think some bewildered voters vote no or don't vote at all. I'm not suggesting that is their intent, but I think it could be an unintended consequence." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Lawmakers spar over laptop contract costs

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The eight-year, $180 million pact with Hewlett-Packard Co. for laptops required under public schools chief Tom Luna's education overhaul is dividing Idaho's Republican lawmakers. Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise said Friday during a meeting inside the Capitol the price was "double pretty much what we anticipated." Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene countered it's only 10 percent above estimates. Who's right? In 2011, Luna estimated the five-year cost at $70.8 million, or $14.6 million annually. For the first five years of the actual H-P contract, the cost is $82 million, about 16 percent higher, conceded Luna spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. And over eight years, the average annual cost runs $22.5 million, well over Luna's estimate when calculated yearly. Voters weigh in on the computers and Luna's additional education changes Nov. 6.

Ad Watch: Teacher departures and the 2011 law changes…

The latest TV campaign commercial from opponents of Idaho's school reform propositions focuses on the number of Idaho teachers who have left the profession since the laws passed in 2011. "Since the Legislature passed Props 1, 2 and 3, over 1,800 Idaho teachers have left teaching," the ad says. That claim is based on data compiled by the state Department of Education. The department's data shows that 1,884 certificated Idaho teachers left the profession of teaching in the 2011-2012 school year, a number that rose sharply from the 1,276 who left in the 2010-2011 year. Both those figures were way up from the 2009-2010 school year, in which the data show 716 Idaho teachers left the profession, a figure that at that point had been relatively stable for three years.

That means the ad's claim is correct - if anything, it understates the figures. The laws passed during the 2011 legislative session; that was the 2010-2011 school year. So, depending on when in the year the teachers departed, it's possible that as many as 3,160 Idaho school teachers have left the profession since the reform laws passed. Read my full ad watch story here at spokesman.com.

Lawmakers suffering some ‘sticker shock’ over $180M laptop contract

The AP reports that with the $180 million contract now signed for laptop computers for Idaho's high schools, lawmakers are suffering from sticker shock. In 2011, when lawmakers were considering the laptop plan, chief proponent and state schools Supt. Tom Luna and his staff estimated the cost for five years at $60.8 million. When costs for improving the wireless infrastructure are added to the equation, staff pegged the total five-year price tag at $70.8 million. Now, it's $180 million over eight years. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.

SDE: ‘Buyout’ clause in laptops contract wouldn’t kick in ‘til after the election

Here's the answer from state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath as to how soon the $14.2 million "buyout" clause kicks in in the state's $180 million laptop contract, requiring the state to pay the contractor if it cancels the contract: "The buyout would not kick in until the state begins incurring costs. The state does not plan to do so until after Nov. 6. Right now, the state is in the process of working with HP and HP’s partners to develop a project plan based on the contract that was signed Tuesday. This will be done between 30-60 days from now, per the contract."

Also, it sounds like I'm not going to get the contract today. The SDE says their lawyers are still reviewing it before releasing it under the Idaho Public Records Law. "I would hope that you're going to get it tomorrow," McGrath said.

Arithmetic and the $180 million contract…

I've heard a lot of questions today about the numbers behind the $180 million contract Idaho signed yesterday with Hewlett-Packard and partners to supply laptops to every Idaho high school student and teacher for the next eight years, under the "Students Come First" reform laws - the ones that are up for a possible repeal in the Nov. 6 election. Specifically, the state Department of Education said the contract equates to $249.77 per student or teacher per year for just the laptops, maintenance, security and tech support, or $292.77 if the costs of wireless infrastructure and professional development are added in.

According to the state's RFP for this project, the state estimated that 6,551 teachers and administrators would get laptops the first year, and it estimated the number of students, after a three-year phase-in, at 83,825. That's a total of 90,376 laptops. If you divide $180 million by 90,376, it comes out to $1,992 per laptop, not $250. However, the department specifically said it was paying that amount per laptop PER YEAR of the eight-year contract. So, multiply 90,372 laptops by eight years, and you get 723,008. Divide that number into $180 million, and the result is $249.

These may not be the exact numbers in the contract, as they're from the RFP as issued last spring; I have requested a copy of the contract under the Idaho Public Records Law. When I receive it, I will post it here.

Luna on laptops: ‘This train has left the station’

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how today, two weeks before the November election, in which Idaho voters could cancel the whole program, the state of Idaho signed a $180 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard to supply laptop computers to every Idaho high school student. If voters turn thumbs down on Proposition 3 in two weeks, the contract will be canceled.

But Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, author of the law that's being tested in Proposition 3, 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."

Otter: A ‘big day’ with Idaho company successful bidder for laptop contract

Gov. Butch Otter called this a "big day," announcing that Hewlett-Packard Corp. has been named the successful bidder to supply laptop computers to Idaho high school students. "It's a proud moment for me," Otter said, "that we had an Idaho company that was the successful bidder and that will lead us into that 21st Century classroom."
  

Otter, Luna, HP officials gather at HP to announce ‘major partnership’ on laptop contract

Three Hewlett-Packard laptop computers are lined up next to a stack of battered textbooks, binders and a calculator today in a conference room at Hewlett-Packard Corp., where Gov. Butch Otter and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna are gathered along with dignitaries for the announcement of a "major partnership between HP and the State of Idaho:" HP has been selected as the vendor for student laptops under the "Students Come First" technology program.

On the big screen behind the laptops is the logo for Students Come First, Luna's reform program that calls for supplying every Idaho high school student and teacher with a laptop computer. The state has been in the final stages of negotiating an eight-year, $100 million-plus contract to supply the laptops.

Defiant secret-donations group to restart its pro-Props 1,2,3 campaign

A shadowy group that raised and spent more than $200,000 in anonymous contributions to fund statewide TV ads in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the school reform referenda, issued a defiant news release today headed, "Founders: 'We won't back down,'" asserting that it'll resume its activities to "talk to voters about education reform and make sure they understand the education issues on Idaho's ballot" in the final two weeks before the election - despite a legal dispute with the Idaho Secretary of State over the legality of the group not disclosing its contributors.

The group also distributed an op-ed piece to Idaho newspapers today, asserting that it was formed because "for too long, Idaho parents have been left on the sidelines of the political debate over education," because organizations represent school administrators, school board members and teachers, but "the most important voices in this process are often lost or outright ignored - there are too few groups advocating for the rights of parents with school-age children." That overlooks the Idaho PTA, a statewide organization with thousands of members.

According to its website, "Idaho PTA is the largest parent organization in the state" and is "an organization dedicated to the welfare of children and youth." At the Idaho PTA's annual convention in April, keynote speakers included state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, discussing the school reform measures, and national PTA President-Elect Otha Thornton. The Idaho PTA's legislative priorities this year were education funding, parent involvement and responsibility, endowment land management for the benefit of schools, and promoting child nutrition, health and safety. That group hasn't taken a position for or against the reform measures, but has been urging its members to research the measures and cast their votes accordingly.

John Foster, co-founder of Education Voters of Idaho, and former longtime Idaho state Rep. Debbie Field, R-Boise, who's also been the longtime campaign manager for Gov. Butch Otter, say in the op-ed that their group suffered "attacks," showing "just how dangerous a powerful group of motivated parents will be to a politicized system in desperate need of improvement and change." Foster said the group's statewide TV commercial wasn't pulled, but completed its two- to three-week run; the group then suspended all its activities, but now will restart all of them, despite the legal dispute with the state. "A decision about further television advertising hasn't been made yet," Foster said. You can read the op-ed piece here.
  

Ad Watch: Latest anti-school reform ad charges measure treats kids like ‘widgets’

The latest TV campaign commercial from opponents of the education reform propositions on Idaho's November ballot focuses on Proposition 2, the teacher merit-pay measure, suggesting that Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna wants to "treat children like widgets," a claim he disputes. The measure sets up a new merit-pay bonus system for Idaho teachers, allowing teachers to earn bonuses if their entire school shows growth in student test scores on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. The law also allows bonuses for other student-achievement measures set by individual school districts, and next year, would cover additional bonuses for teachers who take leadership roles or hold hard-to-fill positions. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Read the ‘Students Come First’ RFP…

Here's a link to the full 79-page RFP, with attachments, for Idaho's "Students Come First" laptop computer contract, obtained by The Spokesman-Review under Idaho's public records law. The eight-year contract to provide and maintain laptop computers for every Idaho high school student and teacher, along with setting up and maintaining wireless networks in every Idaho high school, is worth more than $100 million; it would be renewable for up to 16 years. After the state didn't get competitive bids in response to the Request for Proposals in June, it began negotiating with potential providers; it's now negotiating with up to half a dozen. State Purchasing Director Bill Burns said the RFP still is "the basis for every negotiation." Essentially, companies are being asked indivdually how they can provide what's in it or the closest they can get to what's in it.

The process has dragged out well beyond original timeframes, which envisioned the first batch of laptops in the hands of teachers and principals this month; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

‘Students Come First’ laptop rollout slips behind schedule; no vendor selected yet

The first round of more than 6,000 laptop computers, one for every high school teacher and administrator, was supposed to be out in Idaho's schools this month under the "Students Come First" school reform plan, but holdups in finding a suitable vendor have pushed that way back. After canceling a bidding process in June for lack of competitive bids, the state is now negotiating with up to a half-dozen potential providers of the computers, with hopes of picking one in the coming weeks and getting them out in the second semester.

At stake is an eight-year contract worth more than $100 million, under which the provider would supply and maintain laptops for every Idaho high school student, provide technical support, and set up and maintain wireless networks in the Idaho schools. "It's the whole ball of wax," said Idaho Division of Purchasing Director Bill Burns. "It's a pretty big contract."

The state has budgeted $2.56 million for the first round of laptops this year, an average of $391 apiece. But the bidder will set the price, and it's unclear what will happen if the bid comes in higher than that. Meanwhile, a clause in the contract will state that the whole thing goes away if voters repeal the program on Nov. 6; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

School reform forum draws a crowd

Last night's public forum on the school reform ballot measures drew a near-capacity crowd of 350 at Centennial High School, the Idaho Statesman reports; you can read their full report here.

Public invited to forum on school reform measures tonight at Centennial High

Tonight, the League of Women Voters, Transform Idaho and the AAUW are sponsoring an educational panel discussion on Idaho's school reform referenda; the forum, which is free and open to the public, will be at Centennial High School from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. “The objective is to clarify the referendums and the impact of the resulting vote on Idaho's educational system,” the groups said in a news release announcing the event.



The panel will include Ken Burgess, partner at Veritas Advisors and campaign manager of the Yes4Idaho campaign, and Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff to Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, representing the “yes” side; and Mike Lanza, chair of the “Vote No on Props 1,2,3” campaign, and Cindy Wilson, government teacher at Centennial High, representing the “no” side. Current perspective on how the laws are working in the Boise and Meridian school districts will be provided by Don Coberly, Boise schools superintendent; A.J. Balukoff, Boise school board president; Eric Exline, Meridian School District community relations director; and Anne Ritter, vice chair of the Meridian School Board.



Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at BSU, will moderate. Those attending are encouraged to arrive by 6:15 p.m.; Centennial High School is located at Cloverdale and McMillan roads in Boise.

‘No’ campaign: ‘There’s widespread opposition’

Mike Lanza, chairman of the "Vote No on Props 1,2,3" campaign, asked why the National Education Association gave $1.06 million to the campaign against the school-reform measures, said, "Because they're an organization of teachers and they support their subsidiary organizations around the country. Their membership helps decide these things, what they want to support. They, I think, recognize that what's going on in Idaho is similar to what's happening in other states, and that frankly these are key education questions about how our schools are going to run for many years to come." He said, "We appreciate the fact that there are teachers outside of Idaho who support what we're doing as well."

As for the pro-reform campaign's latest TV ad, which uses an edited 2009 video clip to suggest that the reason the NEA is backing repeal of Idaho's reform laws is to flex the muscles of union power, Lanza said, "The other side has been wanting to portray this from the get-go as union vs. Tom Luna. But I think they're dodging a mathematical reality that we would not be talking about that, and it would not be on the ballot, if it wasn't for the fact that there's widespread opposition to these laws beyond teachers. We got 74,000 signatures." The Idaho Education Association, Idaho's teachers union, has roughly 13,000 members.

The "No" campaign's most recent campaign finance report showed the group has raised $1.4 million and spent $1.3 million, with the largest chunk of its fundraising, $1.06 million, coming from the National Education Association, $280,000 from the Idaho Education Association and the rest from hundreds of small donations from individuals across the state.

 

The "Yes" campaign's report showed it's raised $164,858 and spent $112,679; the biggest contributions were $50,000 from Melaleuca and $15,000 from Hagadone Hospitality, with other big givers including the Idaho Prosperity Fund at $20,500 and the Idaho Republican Party and Lorna Finman at $10,000 each. In addition, Parents for Education Reform reported raising and spending $200,350 from undisclosed donors; and the Idaho Federation of Republican Women reported raising and spending $115,000, $110,000 of that from Melaleuca.

Idaho Secretary of State says he’ll likely demand disclosure of donors

Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says he's likely to demand that a group helping finance the campaign to save Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's education reforms reveal the names of its contributors, the AP reports. Education Voters of Idaho collected at least $200,000 to promote Luna's reforms ahead of the Nov. 6 referendum, but says it doesn't have to disclose donors because it's a nonprofit organization under federal tax law. On Monday, Ysursa said the group has yet to provide a legal explanation for why it's not a political action committee required by Idaho's 1974 "Sunshine laws" to disclose donors ahead of the election. "It eviscerates the law if we don't get disclosure," Ysursa told the Associated Press. "We personally do not believe there's a doubt here."

Absent a response from the group, Ysursa said he'll seek "legal remedies" that could include a request for a court order for it to reveal its donors. He expects to act this week. Susan Buxton, Education Voters of Idaho's attorney, didn't return a call seeking comment Monday. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Pro-reform group defends use of old video clip in ad

Ken Burgess, spokesman for Yes for Idaho Education, is defending his group's use of an edited clip from a July 2009 speech by a retiring NEA official in a campaign commercial that says it shows "the national teachers union as they explain why the union is spending millions to defeat education reform like Props 1, 2, and 3 here in Idaho." "The purpose of that ad is to demonstrate to Idahoans really what and who the NEA is all about," Burgess said. "What's most important to them really is just being able to have members."

Asked how the 2009 clip shows why the NEA is spending big on the Idaho campaign in 2012, Burgess said, "Oh, they've engaged in these types of efforts in many states around the country where education reform has been attempted. It's nothing new for Idaho, it's nothing new for this year. … It's stuff that they have done all along, because they basically oppose reform of the status quo."

Burgess said an earlier ad in favor of Props 1, 2 and 3 that was being run by a group coordinated by lobbyist and political activist John Foster is no longer running, but he promised "a very aggressive effort on our part … all the way through Nov. 6" to push for support for the measures, possibly including additional ads. The new TV commercial is running across southern Idaho, and a radio version is running statewide.

Ad Watch: New Idaho pro-school reform ad takes 2009 video clip out of context

The latest campaign commercial in the school reform fight comes from "Yes for Idaho Education," the group leading the campaign in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, and features an edited clip from a July 2009 retirement speech by then-National Education Association general counsel Bob Chanin, talking about why he believed the NEA had become an effective advocate during the 41 years he'd been with the group. That's not what the ad says the clip is about, however.

"Listen to the national teachers union as they explain why the union is spending millions to defeat education reform like Props 1, 2 and 3 in Idaho," the ad states. It then plays this edited clip from Chanin's speech: "It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children, and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. It's because we have power." The narrator then says, "Don't let the union stop education reform in Idaho - vote yes on Props 1, 2 and 3."

However, not only is the statement not about why the NEA is backing the campaign against the reforms - which campaign finance reports show it's doing to the tune of $1.07 million so far - the clip is of statements made more than two years before Idaho's reform laws even passed. The same cropped video clip has been used repeatedly over the past three years to try to discredit the NEA, notably in February of 2011 by Sean Hannity on Fox News and by conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh, both of whom used the clip to suggest that the national teachers union doesn't care about children; and in a March 2011 anti-union ad from Crossroads GPS and Karl Rove that prompted criticisms both from the NEA and the conservative Cato Institute; Talking Points Memo reported here on that dustup.

Yes for Idaho Education has not yet responded to reporters' inquiries about its new ad.