How iPads fit into a budget battle

The public schools budget — the Legislature’s biggest spending decision, year in and year out — may be the biggest hurdle to adjournment this week.

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls

We’ll all know better Wednesday morning, when the Senate takes up House Bill 323, the public schools budget. The Senate will suspend its calendar and vote on the budget Wednesday, Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told colleagues Monday morning.

The budget passed the House easily Friday, on a bipartisan 52-16 vote. But on the Senate side, Education Committee Chairman John Goedde and Vice Chairman Dean Mortimer are looking at ways to amend or kill the budget, John Miller of the Associated Press reported over the weekend.

Adding to the intrigue: a flap over a $3 million piece of the $1.3 billion budget, earmarked for technology pilot programs administered by state superintendent Tom Luna’s office.

Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert

Miller says the $3 million is the subject of “behind-the-scenes grumbling among those who suspect some of it may eventually be earmarked to help pay for equipping 500 students at Paul Elementary School with Apple iPad tablets, a program started in 2012.

“Paul Elementary is located in the district of Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert and the budget committee’s co-chairman.”

The iPad program costs roughly $300,000 a year. Cameron told Miller he is leaving this funding decision to Luna’s office.

More reading: This isn’t the only budget battle looming in the Legislature’s final days. Here’s my look at the impasse over House Bill 65, a $30.6 million public schools funding fix for 2012-13.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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