Idaho panel approves education contracts in which private company absorbs risk, not the state (AP)

BOISE, Idaho — A legislative panel is backing a bill that would let Idaho's Education Department contract with private companies for education programs, and then only pay once the programs are shown to work.

The House Education Committee unanimously approved the plan, dubbed "Pay for Success," on Monday.

Sen. Bob Nonini from Coeur d'Alene, who sponsored the legislation, says Idaho would not have to pay any money unless an independent evaluator decides the educational pilot program has met its goals under the contract.

"The risk is totally on the private entity," he said.

The bill now goes to the full House for approval.

Rep. Ilana Rubel from Boise and Rep. Judy Boyle from Midvale worried that the evaluator would be biased, because they would be paid by the private company.

"We saw with the (state's failed broadband program) how quickly things can go bad, even with an oversight committee," she said. "I just am not comfortable with the evaluator."

Haas said that the Department of Education must sign off on who the evaluator is.

Usually, the state funds pilot programs with its' own money.

"We're really giving Department of Education another tool in the toolbox," said Rep. Steven Harris from Meridian, who also sponsored the bill. "There are lots of ideas out there where this tool could be used."

Kate Haas, from the Lee Pesky Learning Center, said she hopes her organization will be one of the companies to partner with the state under the new plan.

"We believe that Pay for Success is an outstanding way of spurring innovation in our education system," she said. "We think that's one of the things the private sector does very well: examine risk and determine how much should be allocated for innovation."

Decisions about whether or not Idaho should enter into a contract would be made by a five-person panel. It would consist of lawmakers and education department officials, as well as a representative from the state controller's office.

Contracts would also require an annual audit by an accountant.