State superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s legislative liaison was quick to lay the blame for the flawed $61 million Schoolnet project at the feet of former state superintendent Tom Luna.
Ybarra staffers responded Tuesday morning to a sharply critical Office of Performance Evaluations report on Schoolnet — a report that blasted Luna for pursuing a statewide instructional management system, despite questions about whether the approach could work. The state has spent $61 million in taxpayer and grant money on the project, with spotty results, and now has few options going forward.
“The report is accurate. We admit that,” said former state Sen. Tim Corder, Ybarra’s point man on legislative issues. “We also would tell you that it’s not us … Superintendent Ybarra is going to be about fixing the problem.”
As the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission met again Tuesday morning to discuss the Schoolnet report, Wilder Republican Rep. Gayle Batt asked if the state could pursue any of its money back, based on breach of contract. Interim chief deputy Pete Koehler declined to answer, saying that’s a question best posed to the attorney general’s office.
But Koehler restated the department’s desire to move away from Schoolnet. Ybarra’s budget request would decrease Schoolnet spending from $2.5 million to $985,000 — and provide a bridge for the districts and charters that have made the system work.
“Schoolnet is a good system at the district level,” he said. “It was not designed to be a state system, and they have not fixed that yet.”
Ybarra is also seeking $2.6 million to allow districts to shop for their own systems.
Come 2016-17, Schoolnet will no longer be a statewide system. Instead, said Koehler, it will be one of many systems districts can choose to use. The basic goal of an instructional management system is to provide real-time student development data to teachers, parents and principals — and the state has no need for that data, Koehler said.
Disclosure: Schoolnet was funded in part by a $21 million grant from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, which also funds Idaho Education News.