Oversight Report: Idaho Schoolnet 'Sunk Costs of $61 Million,' Future Uncertain

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It's officially called Idaho's Instructional Management System, but it's more commonly known as Schoolnet, a suite of online tools initially designed to give Idaho teachers current data on academic achievement.

A new report from the Idaho Legislature's Office of Performance Evaluations says the project "has sunk costs of about $61 million, and the Department of Education and the Legislature are left with few options to consider when deciding the future of the program."

OPE Director Rakesh Mohan wrote to Idaho lawmakers this morning that they "should heed additional lessons from the project" and "we should learn from our past mistakes."

The Department of Education had pursued funding for its IT initiatives, but today's OPE report says the department's plan for Schoolnet "was overly ambitious and lacked needed details."

Analysts said the Department of Education led policymakers and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation to believe Schoolnet was useful to districts, but none of that was backed up by meaningful evidence, according to the report. Ultimately the project cost $61 million. 

OPE concluded that "careful contract risk management can prevent performance problems such as contracting with a vendor unable to deliver the expected product."