It’s shaping up to be a grim year for the Spokane Public School district in Washington state. Like so many others, it is making deep cuts in everything from teaching staff to school supplies this coming school year. But there’s one bright spot for the district: The amount of federal dollars to incorporate technology in the classroom–and to train teachers to use it–is expected to double to about $160,000 from the previous year.
At the same time school districts around the nation are bracing for a round of severe belt-tightening as a result of strained state and local budgets, they’re also getting a significant bump in federal funding to make their classrooms more tech-savvy, which they hope will help improve student performance.
Students at North Carolina’s Greene Central High School use their school-issued laptops to collaborate on a social-studies project: Some school districts have seen increased funding for technology as staff and other programs are suffering substantial cuts.
The only problem: Districts are prohibited from using the money for any other purpose–which can mean that they have to cut staff and other programs while spending lavishly on computers.
The Enhancing Education Through Technology program was authorized in 2002 as part of the Bush-era No Child Left Behind law. But the level of funding steadily declined to $267.5 million in 2008 from $700.5 million six years earlier–a 62% drop. The economic-stimulus package signed into law by President Barack Obama in February restored $650 million in funding to the program, to be used over the course of the next two school years. States are expected to receive those funds this week to distribute to their school districts.