Education

Data: Idaho Education News

Repeatedly — both before and after his election to a third term — Gov. Butch Otter’s praise for Idaho’s high school broadband system has focused on access.

The Idaho Education Network brings more classes into rural schools, he says, bringing the state that much closer to meeting its constitutional mandate to provide a uniform system of free public schools.

The state’s own numbers tell a very different story:

During his stop at Boise State University Wednesday, President Barack Obama will visit a lab that helps local entrepreneurs and industries build prototypes of their products to help get them into the marketplace.

Obama will visit the College of Engineering’s New Product Development Lab. It’s managed and run by the College of Business and Economics. 

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A new audit shows slightly more than half of the schools surveyed aren't using the equipment purchased through Idaho's pricey broadband contract and nearly 6 percent of the videoconferencing equipment can't be located.

Legislative auditors told budget writers Thursday that use of the Idaho Education Network, a program that provides broadband access to Idaho public schools, has declined since it first began in 2012.

State Sen. Dean Cameron says the report raises concerns for the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee as it considers funding the program for another year.

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Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

The state has outlined its timetable to rebid the Idaho Education Network broadband contract — and Idaho will likely have to go it alone on project funding at least until July 1, 2016.

The state Department of Administration won’t accept bids on the new contract until June, and that’s well past the deadline for the state (or school districts) to apply for federally administered “e-Rate” funds for 2015-16.

Here’s how the two timetables mesh:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra offered a brief glimpse of her agenda for the 2015 Idaho Legislature at her first press conference since being elected in November.

Ybarra told reporters Monday that she is considering increasing operational funding for schools while possibly delaying the implementation of a new plan that seeks to tighten teacher certification credentials.

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The J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has given away about $30 million a year in Idaho since the 1990s. Most of that money has gone to projects involving Idaho’s public schools. But foundation Executive Director Roger Quarles says the board and staff are frustrated with how that's worked out, and are changing the way they give.

“Since 1997 we’ve invested almost $700 million in K-12 and higher ed,” Quarles says. “And to me, it looks the same as it did 17 years ago. School basically looks the same, feels the same as it did a hundred years ago in Idaho.”

Idaho Education News

Idaho school districts are collecting more than $180 million in voter-approved supplemental levies in 2014-15.

This represents almost a 4 percent decrease from 2013-14, when districts collected more than $188 million in supplemental levies. But the dropoff can be explained by reduced levies in three of the state’s largest districts. Across the state, levy elections are more commonplace than ever.

The College of Idaho has received a $2.45 million grant spread over five years for biomedical research.

The school in southwest Idaho in a statement Monday says that about a third of the money will be used to investigate the medical properties of sagebrush.

A similar amount will be used to research small molecule inhibitors that could be used to fight pathogenic microorganisms.

The school says the rest of the money will be used for other research projects.

The money comes from the National Institutes of Health's IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence.

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Idaho is doing a poor job of preparing educators to teach to Common Core standards, according to a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

Last week, the National Council on Teacher Quality gave Idaho a D+ grade for teacher preparedness. The average state grade was a C; only 10 states graded out lower than Idaho.

The State Board of Education has endorsed legislation that would set Idaho teacher pay based on performance standards and experience.

Board member Richard Westerberg says the state needs higher teacher salaries, and the plan would allow district to reward their best teachers.

Beginning teachers would see salaries increase from about $31,000 a year to about $40,000 a year over the next five years, and top-level teachers would see their base salaries rise from $47,000 to $58,000.

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The state is asking a judge to take another look at his decision to void the $60 million Idaho Education Network broadband contract.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Idaho's legal fees so far to defend the now-voided Idaho Education Network high school broadband service contract are about $870,000.

The Idaho Department of Administration tells The Spokesman Review in a story on Friday that it has paid about $600,000 in legal fees to date.

The Idaho Attorney General's Office says it has spent about $270,000.

A judge in Boise voided the $60 million statewide contract Tuesday after finding the Idaho Department of Administration violated the state's procurement law.

An Idaho school official says high school students relying on the Idaho Education Network to complete a state-required math course may not be able to graduate now that the broadband contract is void.

Earlier this week, a judge tossed out Idaho's $60 million school broadband contract. Fourth District Judge Patrick Owen ruled Tuesday that it wasn't legally struck.

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Sean MacEntee / Flickr Creative Commons

In a ruling that could have major implications for broadband service in schools — and a multimillion-dollar price tag for  Idaho taxpayers — a District Court judge has tossed out Idaho’s $60 million school broadband contract.

The disputed Idaho Education Network contract was declared void late Monday afternoon by 4th District Court judge Patrick Owen.

Owen sharply criticized the state Department of Administration for continuing to try to salvage the 2009 contract, after carving Syringa Networks out of the deal to provide broadband to 219 high schools across the state.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Boise State University has more students this fall than it did fall 2013, but Idaho State University and the University of Idaho have fewer. All three of Idaho’s public universities saw substantial growth during the height of the Great Recession. But for the last few years the trend has been declining enrollment.

Boise State

Total enrollment – 22,259

Idaho’s largest public university grew by a little more than 1 percent after two years of declining enrollment.

University of Idaho

Total enrollment – 11,534

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FlickingerBrad / Flickr Creative Commons

A student-performance report from Treasure Valley schools shows stagnant growth in 11 indicators, ranging from school readiness to obtaining a post-secondary degree.

The Treasure Valley Education Partnership (TVEP) released its “Report to the Community” Wednesday, and most numbers were disappointing.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said TVEP chairman Rich Raimondi, president at Bishop Kelly High School. “We first want to be open and transparent about our baseline. I think we will see (increases) in the next couple of years.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho has filed a lawsuit against a south-central Idaho school district accusing it of sexually and religiously discriminating against a student.

The Times-News reports that Declo High School and Cassia County School District denied senior Sierra Norman the opportunity to run for student body president last spring.

School officials argue Norman took too many online dual-credit classes to qualify as a full-time student.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Republican Sherri Ybarra says her at-times bumpy campaign for Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction is a result of increased public scrutiny on a political newcomer. But the school administrator from Mountain Home says she understands the focus that's on her comes with a run for public office.

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Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The Democrat running to be Idaho’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction says funding and low morale are the two biggest issues facing Idaho’s schools.

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Idaho high school students showed improvement on Advanced Placement tests, but lag well behind national benchmarks on the SAT college placement exam.

Those are two key findings from national results issued Tuesday.

The College Board, a New York-based nonprofit, released scores for the three sets of tests it administers: the AP exams, the SAT and the PSAT/NMSQT, a practice test for the SAT.

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