Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Boise school leaders protest change to school day | Local News | Idaho Statesman

From today's ID Statesman: A real-world look into the complexities of urban public policy, with density issues, service levels and impact areas at the center of the argument. Just like we discuss in class!

While the majority of Boise School District trustees voted to start and end the school day later at nine elementary schools this fall, two trustees lodged protest votes against the state mandate that forced the decision.
"Nobody squawks more about federal mandates and federal control than the Idaho Legislature, but they do the same thing to the School District," said trustee Rory Jones, who voted against changing the school day to 9:15 a.m.-3:45 p.m. The current hours are 8:45 a.m.-3:25 p.m.
If the district did not make the change, the state would have withheld the $385,000 it says the district will save in busing.
"The sad part for me is the burden falls on a limited number of families who don't deserve this," Jones said.
About 20 percent of the kids in the district, or about 2,295 students and their families, will be affected, he said.
In an audit mandated by the state, the district's bus contractor, First Student, said these nine schools were close enough to the ending locations of other bus routes that merging the routes could save miles.
The state pays for the majority of school districts' transportation costs, but so far, the Boise School District has been the only one in the state affected by legislation that triggers an audit when the cost to transport students exceeds a cap set by the state.
"The Legislature wanted to look at districts with high population density to see if they were operating their transportation efficiency," said state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. "When you're saving money on transportation, $400,000 is money that can go in to other education programs."

But the formula the state used to calculate the cap is flawed, said Boise School Board President A.J. Balukoff.
The state used the cost per mile and the cost per rider to calculate efficiency, but 85 percent of transportation costs are fixed, he said.
Many kids in the Boise School District walk to school, and many don't qualify for busing because they live within 1.5 miles of their school, he said.
That makes the cost per rider high because there are fewer riders, he said.
Inner city transportation also has its own hitches. A bus that starts and stops every three blocks is going to have low miles, compared to a bus that goes out to Orchard Ranch and back, which is a 50-mile trip, and will appear to cost less to operate, he said.
"What does that tell you about your efficiency? Nothing," Balukoff said.

Read full article here.

Good news for Idaho's Future?

The future sure sounds promising, according to an ID Statesman article published today:

Idaho's green energy push is very different than that of other states and countries. It has offered few tax incentives and has never established so-called renewable energy portfolio standards - which require utilities to use so much green power- to promote the industry.

So what's Idaho got to sell?

Earlier this month, Chinese-owned Hoku Scientific began producing polysilicon for use in solar panels at its new $390 millionplant in Pocatello. Economic development officials there say they have three other energy companies looking to build in eastern Idaho that could bring more than $100 million in investment. Officials could know by June whether one has committed to Idaho, and by the end of the year for the rest.
"Hoku just fired up the plant and they're off to the races," Little said.
Micron Technology recently forged a partnership with Australian power giant Origin Energy to develop solar power technologies that is expected to lead to commercialization within 18 months. The U.S. Department of Energy, through the Idaho Office of Energy Resources, awarded Micron a $5 million grant to help it enter into the light emitting diode (LED) high-efficiency lighting market that is expected to take off by 2012.

Read more here.