- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Idaho school officials say the statewide broadband Internet service is influencing almost every aspect of their students’ education, but a recent court battle has put the service in jeopardy.

The Idaho Statesman (https://bit.ly/1wTC2Xm ) reports that students at schools like Kuna Middle School depend on the high-speed Internet access for classroom assignments and for taking statewide achievement tests.

However, a November court ruling called the state’s $60 million broadband contract illegal. District Judge Patrick Owen found that the Department of Administration violated the state’s procurement law.

Syringa Networks sued Idaho in 2009, claiming that the Department of Administration handed Qwest the multi-million dollar contract to install broadband equipment for the Idaho Education Network. The project connects public high schools, universities and business in Idaho.

State officials like Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna have voiced their support of continuing the service but the future of Idaho’s broadband is unknown.

Both Otter and Luna argue that the broadband service increased the number of dual credit classes students take. They also say it’s boosted schools’ ability to pair teachers in one location with students in another to provide teaching.

State officials are currently wading through their legal options and have requested Judge Owen to reconsider as well as clarify his ruling.

Kuna Middle School Principal Deb McGrath says her school would take a financial hit if forced to pay for Internet services without the state’s help.

Broadband service not only provides outside instruction but also allows teachers to use broadband so that students can do a virtual dissection of a frog.

Candice Grover, a teacher in the Melba School District, says all her seventh and eighth grade language arts classes have computers and use them to do research for papers.

“If this is scratched, it would be disastrous,” Grover said.

School administrators doubt that the service could go dark, but they are nervous that they may face chances to the service.

Melba Superintendent Andy Grover said legislators he talks to are cautious. They tell him “we are going to take care of the issue,” Grover said, “But no one is saying, ‘This is how it will work.’”

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