Hewlett Packard now has an eight year $180 million contract to get laptops into the hands of Idaho high school students and teachers. This meets part of the requirements outlined in the Students Come First education laws. Tuesday's announcement comes two weeks before voters decide whether those laws will stay on the books.
If Idahoans vote no on ballot Proposition 3 in November, the contract with HP will be voided.
In making Tuesday’s announcement Idaho Governor Butch Otter played up Hewlett Packard’s presence in Idaho. “I can’t tell you how happy I was that we had an Idaho company that was the successful bidder,’ Otter said.
HP is not an Idaho company. It’s headquartered in California but the computer hardware maker says up to 3,500 of its 350,000 employees still live in the Boise area. That’s down as much as 1,000 in the last few years. Neither the state nor the company has said this contract will reduce the threat of more layoffs at HP’s Boise campus. But Otter did refer to the deal as growing the state’s partnership with the company.
If the technology law is not repealed Idaho’s 6,000 plus high school teachers should each get an HP laptop by early next semester. The first group of the state’s high school students would get them the following fall. Teachers had been scheduled to get them this fall. Otter, a Students Come First supporter, says opposition to the laws slowed the process.
“There were companies that were reluctant to step forward and say 'I’m going to bid on this' when they didn’t know what the future was,” he said. “Once it got on the ballot, that then started stalling our timeline. If we had been able to go forward with that time line they would be in the teachers’ hands today.”
In June the state abandoned the bidding process for the laptop contract after too few companies showed interest. It then began individual negotiations. The state never divulged which companies it was negotiating with. Idaho officials insist the process remained competitive throughout.
HP Vice President and Boise General Manager Von Hansen says his company was not deterred by the possibility of repeal. “Guess I have faith in Idaho. I have faith that people will realize that technology is very important for our students,” Hansen said. “You know we have our own children here in school. This is very important for us.”
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio