Senate Ed passes WiFi bill

The Senate Education Committee passed a WiFi bill Thursday during what is likely the group’s final meeting of the session.

John Goedde
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene

Chairman John Goedde’s bill outlines the standards districts must meet in order to opt out of a controversial statewide contract, and receive $21 per high school student to set up their own WiFi programs.

The 2014-15 public school budget, proposed by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee earlier this month allows districts to receive $21 per student — if the district is not part of the statewide contract, or if the districts opt out of the contract by July 1.

Goedde’s bill spells out the requirements districts must meet:

  • The system must have the capacity to connect all mobile computing devices in the school to WiFi.
  • It must pass validation tests, performed by districts and the State Department of Education.
  • A district’s system must include content filtering tools that ensure students are accessing only age-appropriate Internet content.

The bill passed the committee unanimously, and heads to the Senate floor.

MarcGibbs748
Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace

Hiring spouses. Senate Education also endorsed a bill to allow small school districts to hire trustees’ spouses.

Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, said House Bill 568 is necessary because two of the districts he represents have been unable to hire band and drama teachers. Instead, they have been employing spouses of school board members, but cannot pay them under current Idaho law.

This bill would create an exception for school districts with fewer than 1,200 students, so long as they advertise the position openly and a school board member does not play a role in hiring decisions involving a spouse.

If a spouse takes a job, the bill requires districts to publicly advertise that position every year.

“My school boards have asked me to bring this before you (because it) may be another tool to provide a little better quality of education to folks in rural Idaho,” Gibbs said.

The Idaho Education Association opposes the bill, while the Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Rural Schools Association support it.

This marks Gibbs’ third attempt at writing such a bill – he scrapped two earlier versions to make changes House Education Committee members said were necessary to ensure the bill’s passage. The latest version passed the House 59-5 on March 5.

If Senate Education does not meet again, that will most likely kill a bill pushed by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, to allow school subdistricts to incur debt and pass bonds. House Bill 621 passed the House 67-0 earlier today – although there are currently no subdistricts in Idaho.