We find Governor Otter’s guest opinion in a recent issue of the Idaho Statesman “Idaho is serious about increasing transparency” amusing and at best disingenuous. We realize our Governor was talking about Idaho’s Public Records Act, but why do we need a special “Transparency and Ethics” law to have public officials we are paying to have produced records that should be available to the public unless they have something to hide. We had a difficult time controlling our laughter after reading the title. Let’s take a minute to explore two of the scandals that have plagued this administration. When asked for information about the CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) scandal, we were handed 2 bags of boloney, five pounds of horse manure and told everything was fine while the prison was turned into a Roman Coliseum for inmates to do battle. Later we find out that the CCA was scamming the state on how many hours their employees were putting in while prisoners were left unattended. Meanwhile back at the ranch our Governor is settling a contract dispute with CCA We are wondering just what more will be uncovered in the current FBI investigation which is ongoing.
The fact that the state had stopped receiving money from the FCC for ten months for the Idaho Education Network Wi-Fi contract was kept from the public till the Judge made his ruling that the contract with Century Link was not valid. You have to wonder why Syringa was cut out of the contract at the last minute but it appears that it had to do with the fact that Syringa was willing to charge less for internet services than Century Link wanted to deal with. Some of that information is just now coming to light as individual school districts are finding cost a low as one half contracting themselves as they were with Century Link. If this is the Governor’s idea of transparency, we believe he needs to look the word up in the dictionary to get a clear understanding of its meaning.
In a recent article the Associated Press conducted a test of Idaho’s public records law asking for information from five different companies and the state agencies that still have or had contracts with the state of Idaho. They found that getting information from those corporations was not as simple as sending in a request for their corresponding e-mails with state agencies and expecting to have them handed over. Only two of the companies complied with the requests Molina and Optum. To their surprise CCA, ENA Networks and The Department of Administration were less than cooperative. When Government can put up a veil of secrecy whenever it pleases and corporations who contract with our government can stonewall seekers of information there is no longer any transparency and we get a government that is no longer accountable to the taxpayers.
We are now just finding out that many school districts contracting for their own internet service are paying as little as one half of what they were being charged by Century Link. So not only were they trying to cover up this mess, but we were paying more than double in many cases for the services that were being provided to our schools. Does anyone wonder why we don’t have enough money for education? This contract was estimated at $60 million, and if we could have saved half of that money, we would have had enough to purchase some much needed textbooks for our schools and might find enough money to give teachers a proper salary. As it stands now between legal fees and loss of funds from the FCC, this debacle could wind up costing tens of millions of dollars and put our education system in a deeper hole.
The only thing our legislators are worried about now is the potential $245 million in federal funding that could be lost if Idaho can’t conduct its scheduled statewide testing on at least 95% of its students this spring which is required by the No Child Left Behind waiver which is an on- line test. This was a legacy left to the Citizens of Idaho by outgoing Superintendent of Education Tom Luna. We understand that Superintendent Ybarra and her assistant Tim Corder have proposed a bill that is supposedly being published next week to extricate us from many of the onerous parts of this waiver. Does anyone really think that the government is going to pull $245 million dollars out of Idaho’s school system when other states have backed out of this online test with no repercussions? If our legislators had been looking out for the people of Idaho instead of themselves, we could have kept the government out of our state school system.
If you watch TV, you will see a constant stream of commercials about how poorly our Idaho students are doing and how enough students don’t go on to college. Government should stop wasting so much money on these stupid TV commercials and put that money towards textbooks, teachers’ salaries and a more diverse course structure like training for future jobs. Our education system is in serious need of an overhaul. You can’t possibly deal with 115 separate school districts with efficiency, and bringing Common Core and the (SBAC) test on at this time we believe is going to deliver the crushing blow that will set our education system and students back for years to come. Our legislators and our Governor need to be thinking less about the federal money and more about bringing Idaho’s education system back to the local level decisions.
If Governor Butch Otter wants to have more “Transparency” in our state, he should start with his own administration. I would bet that these problems with CCA and IEN were known, but we the citizens of Idaho were kept in the dark until after the election so Butch could win a third term. It’s all about the power and money, and unfortunately Transparency is the last thing on the minds of this administration or our legislators now a days.
“We Get the Government We Deserve”