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Idaho Education Network: the final chapter?

The state settles its convoluted and costly Idaho Education Network broadband contract lawsuits — and more K-12 news.

The Idaho Education Network settlement. Idaho announced a $3.5 million settlement with vendors on the statewide high school broadband system — nine years after lawmakers approved the idea, and two years after a lawsuit shut the network down. The state and vendors have agreed to drop their respective legal challenges stemming from the illegal contract. According to an Idaho Education News analysis, the state has had to shell out $18.2 million in taxpayer dollars as a result of the contract debacle.

The evaluations budget. The Legislature’s budget committee checked off some final items on its to-do list Friday. Lawmakers want to give the State Board of Education $1 million to train administrators who conduct teacher evaluations — reviews that are key to pay raises. Gov. Butch Otter had sought a $2.5 million line item for the State Board; state superintendent Sherri Ybarra asked for $300,000, and said her State Department of Education should be in charge of training.

Rural bill survives, barely. The House approved Ybarra’s $300,000 pilot plan for a rural schools network. It’s a top priority for Ybarra, who says the network will help overworked rural school leaders collaborate and stretch scarce resources. But the 37-33 vote suggests deep opposition to the plan; three of the four Republicans in House leadership voted no, as did five Republicans on the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.

Grappling with growth. Eastern Idaho’s Bonneville School District has a $63.5 million high school in the works. But the fast-growing district still might have to go back to voters, and ask for more money to keep pace with enrollment. (And catch up here on the $715 million in school ballot measures on Tuesday’s ballot: )

Gun safety training shot down. In the House Education Committee, an odd alliance of Republicans and Democrats defeated a bill to encourage elective gun safety courses. Lawmakers wondered if schools would be able to find instructors to teach the 60-hour course, and money to cover the cost.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger with Idaho Education News ( Idaho Education News is an independent news site focused on K-12 policy and politics, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. Richert has worked in the Idaho news media since 1985, as a reporter, editor and columnist.

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