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Eye On Boise

Lawmakers favor creating new commission to oversee school broadband aid

The Legislature’s broadband committee went back and forth this morning on how the state’s school broadband program should be governed in the future, with members eventually saying they liked the idea of a commission, as outlined in last year’s HB 315, to oversee it. There’s been no agreement on where such a commission should be located – HB 315 had it as an independent, quasi-governmental entity, but committee members today have moved away from that idea. There’s been discussion of locating it in the Department of Education or Department of Administration, and it’s been compared to the Idaho Charter School Commission, which falls under the state Board of Education.

The commission would employ a director; establish standards for broadband service for schools and other e-rate eligible entities such as libraries, and periodically update those; administer financial support from the state; help districts with e-rate applications for federal reimbursements; and gather information and report it to the Legislature on what all school districts end up doing, whether they participate in the program or not. The commission also would set the reimbursement methodology for school districts.

The commission would include a representative of the state schools superintendent and the president of the state Board of Education; superintendents from both large and small school districts; representatives of the Idaho Education Technology Association; and a representative of the state librarian.

Without settling the issue of where the commission would be located, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, moved to approve the idea as outlined, and House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, seconded the motion; it passed with just one “no” vote, from Rep. Greg Chaney, R-Caldwell. Shortly after the vote, Chaney sent this tweet: “Bureaucracy created the problems with school broadband; more bureaucracy won't fix it.”

After the vote, Davis said, “Well I guess we’d better decide now where we’re going to house it.” Discussion is continuing.

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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