The Otter Administration’s proposal for the Idaho Education Network is to allocate $10.5 million in state general funds for the IEN next year – the full cost, assuming that no federal e-rate funds can be obtained. “Should e-rate funding be realized, there would be an opportunity to reduce that,” former Sen. John Goedde, now a consultant to Otter, told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. “However, the very best-case timeline, we won’t know until November. So the recommendation is to fund the IEN for a full year with general funds.”
That includes $6.7 million to replace lost e-rate funds; $2.9 million for ongoing general funds costs; and just under $1 million for growth in the system next year, including new video-conferencing equipment for one more high school joining the network.
In addition, the administration is requesting $1.6 million in the current year to replace e-rate funds that didn’t come in for the network this year, to keep the network running despite its voided contract.
Senate Education Chairman Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, questioned why the state would propose a new one-year bid for something identical to the current IEN service, and said that concerns him, and gives him “unease.” Teresa Luna, state Department of Administration director, said consulting with federal agencies and all involved suggested an identical service “was an appropriate vehicle moving forward for the short term.” The longer-term contract could be different, she said.
Goedde said he doesn’t want the network to be turned off. “I am confident that our long-term solution will be e-rate fundable, but I’m not going to guarantee that the federal government will do that. That would be a stretch,” he said.