State should keep IDLA, phase out IPTV funds

Press-Tribune Editorial board
February 11, 2010
Idaho Press-Tribune

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter offered a number of suggestions about how to trim the budget in his State of the State address. Two of those suggestions were to phase out funding for Idaho Public Television and the Idaho Digital Learning Academy.

Idaho Public Television provides commercial-free educational programming free to Idahoans. All you need is an antennae and television set.

Idaho Digital Learning Academy is an Internet-based educational program that allows students of all kinds to take classes without setting foot in a classroom. It serves traditional students as well as those who are homeschooled, at-risk, gifted and adult learners. They can take classes not available on campus, make up lost credits and resolve scheduling conflicts. It's a godsend to students in small, rural districts because it expands the number of courses available to them.

In tough economic times, hard decisions must be made about what is expendable and what isn't.

Some argue that public television is a luxury we can no longer afford. It doesn't get all its funding from the state, so if lawmakers adopt Otter's plan, viewers in more populated regions likely would still get it. People in many rural areas would get blacked out.

Although IPTV's programming is educational, it's not an essential government service. Public television was established nationally in 1967, when information alternatives were few. It was an important function of government then, but with all the options available today on TV and online, it no longer is.

Idaho Digital Learning Academy, however, offers a service many students need. It helps provide their education, which is an essential role of government.

Idaho Digital Academy got $5 million from the Legislature last year. Idaho Public Television got about $1.6 million.

The digital academy gets some money from student fees, but a loss of state funding would be devastating.

There may be ways to keep the academy and still cut unnecessary spending. Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna says the state pays the academy for classes taught and also pays districts for the same students, even if they don't take a full class load at the district. That's double dipping, and it's expensive.

The Digital Learning Academy would not duplicate the work of the Idaho Education Network. The IEN only provides infrastructure for high-speed broadband Internet connection to schools. IDLA provides curriculum and teachers.

Ideally, we could find a way to combine all of these educational opportunities under one umbrella. That's the future.

Idaho Public Television General Manager Peter Morrill said it could be possible for IPTV to partner with IEN to help bring its shows to the state. If lawmakers phase out IPTV funding over the next four years, such a partnership could help more Idahoans still get that programming.

Bottom line: Idaho Public Television is no longer a vital role of government. Idaho Digital Learning Academy is. It's the future.


Originally posted at http://www.idahopress.com/opinion/?id=29928

The Opinion posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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