UPDATE: Broadband Snafu Could Cost Districts Nearly $2 Million

May 10, 2016

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra has said school districts might want to consult with their lawyers over Idaho's latest "e-Rate" budget problem.
Credit Idaho Education News

Idaho school districts could be out close to $2 million, as a result of the latest Idaho Education Network budget snafu.

Fifty-seven of Idaho’s 115 school districts now stand to lose out on “e-Rate” money — federally administered dollars collected from landline and cell phone bills. The districts were counting on the e-Rate dollars to cover a share of their technology costs on a host of projects.

However, the Universal Service Administrative Company has denied the payments to the districts. And that decision ties back to the contract for the ill-fated Idaho Education Network, a statewide high school broadband system. Courts have thrown out the network’s $60 million contract.

This means the state did not have a valid agreement allowing the state to collect e-Rate dollars to cover the bulk of Idaho Education Network costs. Citing the flaws in the network contract, and the lack of a legal mechanism to receive e-Rate dollars — USAC turned down the districts’ funding requests as well.

The impacts vary widely from district to district, according to documents obtained Tuesday by Idaho Education News. On one end of the spectrum, the Pocatello School District stands to lose more than $347,000. Five other districts — American Falls, Emmett, Fremont County, Mountain View and West Bonner County — stand to lose more than $100,000. On the other end of the spectrum, Central Idaho’s tiny Camas County School District faces a $467 hit.

The cost figures were compiled by Education Networks of America, the lead vendor on the defunct Idaho Education Network project, and released by the State Department of Education. (Click here for a district-by-district breakdown of the financial impacts.)

State officials have said little about this latest chapter in the Idaho Education Network budget debacle.

On May 2, days after school officials began receiving rejection letters from USAC, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra said state leaders were on the case.

“In an effort to support you, we are working with the governor’s office, office of the attorney general, and the Department of Administration on a statewide response regarding this matter,” Ybarra said in a letter to superintendents and charter administrators. “We will work as quickly as we can to provide further direction, and will let you know as soon as possible. It is the intent of all involved to find a solution that best supports Idaho school districts moving forward.”

Click here to read the entire story from Idaho Education News.