by Andrew Crisp
In a move that opponents to the Luna Laws may see as a politically motivated announcement, Boise Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and officials with Hewlett-Packard unveiled a plan this afternoon in which HP would deliver 90,000 laptops to Idaho public schools by the 2015-2016 school year.
"HP has been an entity in this valley for a long time," said Luna. "It's just fitting that the schools their employees' students attend will benefit from that partnership."
Since the controversial Students Come First reforms were passed by the 2011 Idaho Legislature 18 months ago, parents, teachers and students have waited to see which company would be awarded a contract to furnish laptops to Idaho's schools. At HP's Boise Campus today, the state announced the contract, totaling $180 million over eight years.
"What this means," said Otter, "Is that if we educate today's children with yesterday's system, we deny them the promise of tomorrow. This represents fulfilling that promise."
Otter and Luna joined HP executives including Von Hansen, vice president and general manager of HP Boise.
"We know the power of technology. We know how it impacts businesses. We really feel it will transform our education system," said Hansen.
The company's bid was selected by the State Department of Purchasing, which awarded a contract which averages out to cost $249.77 per student, per year. Luna stressed that the cost includes laptops, maintenance, training and necessary replacements.
Come Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, Idahoans will weigh in on Students Come First reforms in the form of three referendums, Propositions 1, 2 and 3. Luna and Otter said the contract would dissolve if voters decide not to approve Students Come First.
"The contract has the necessary provisions should that happen," said Luna.
Luna said those who bid to supply the state with laptops were aware of the possibility the referendums could pass, and that it factored into negotiations. He said even if Students Come First is repealed on Election Day, his department will continue to move forward.
"If any one of these referendums pass, it's going to be very disruptive," said Luna. "It's one more situation we'll have to deal with."
Officials said 6,700 devices will be deployed to teachers at the beginning of the next semester, with devices in one-third of Idaho students' hands next school year.