About 200 Idaho high schools have signed up to get Wi-Fi internet under the state’s new contract with a Tennessee-based company. Signing that contract brought the state’s Department of Education under fire last week. Some lawmakers thought the multi-year agreement violated the spirit of what the legislature had authorized the department to do when it set aside $2.25 million for Wi-Fi in the coming school year.
Other criticisms were heaped on the deal. Those included that the per-school cost might be cheaper if districts contracted with Wi-Fi providers on their own. With the number of schools now on board, the state’s $2.1 million annual contract with Education Networks of America breaks down to about $10,000 per school to install and maintain wireless internet.
The Associated Press reported last week that the Coeur d’Alene School District had a contract that amounted to about $5,700 per school. An Education Department spokesperson said the average per-school cost was not a good way to judge the deal because it would provide Wi-Fi for isolated districts that might not be able to get it on their own as well as urban ones that might be able to negotiate good deals.
The Coeur d’Alene School District did not sign up to join the state contract. Other districts which bring in large amounts of money from property tax levies also stayed out such as McCall/Donnelly and Blaine County. But some less affluent rural districts such as Parma and Glenns Ferry did not join in as well. Idaho’s three largest school districts Meridian, Boise and Nampa all signed up.
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