Online testing is soon be a staple of every district's assessment plan thanks to the Common Core State Standards, but education officials across the nation are worried they won't have enough resources to put the testing measures in place by the 2014-2015 school year.
Some school districts are finding creative ways to cover the costs. The Palm Beach Post reported recently that the 171,000-student Palm Beach School District will need to come up with $12 million in technology funding by 2015 in order to comply with national Common Core online testing standards and the state's own online testing regimen. The cost could have been much higher, but a district official told the newspaper the total amount, which should cover at least 25,000 computers,will be partially financed by major technology companies:
"District officials have worked out a plan with several top hardware and software companies — Dell, Intel, Microsoft — to donate about $7 million worth of computers, said LeAnne Evans, district treasurer. The $12 million will cover the rest of the computers and equipment to store and move them."
School and county officials told the Post that the remaining money could come from federal funding or out of the county's capital improvement budget, a common budgetary staple of local governments that typically serves to bolster a county's infrastructure and economic development costs.
Not every cash-strapped district in the country can go to tech giants like Dell and Microsoft to pay for new technology. But in our latest issue of Digital Directions, we wrote about different methods districts are using to bring their technology infrastructure in line with the Common Core.
Some districts may reallocate sizable amounts of money used for textbook purchases to pay for technology improvements. For instance, the Indiana Board of Education created a waiver for districts to use digital content instead of textbooks, since much digital content is free or available at a low cost.
Other districts may use money from property taxes to shore up their technology programs. In 2008, voters in San Francisco approved Proposition A, a $198 parcel tax per taxable property, which paid for higher teacher salaries and school technology improvements. Oregon is currently putting forth a bond measure for voter approval that would increase property taxes, and the money could be used to fund capital projects, such as building new schools, improving school facilities, and upgrading technology in schools.
And still more districts are applying for funding from the E-rate, the roughly $2.3 billion annual federal program that helps subsidize schools' and libraries' Internet-related purchases.
What is your district doing to offset the technology costs of the Common Core?