Money for school technology limited in Haley plan – but welcomed by York Co. educators

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJanuary 16, 2014 

In the $160 million education plan Gov. Nikki Haley unveiled last week, she calls for raising one-time spending on “digital instruction materials” to $12 million in 2014-2015 – three times the amount the state spent this year – and $4 million to train teachers how to use technology in their classrooms.

Those technology allocations would be based on the “poverty index” of each district. That means all four York County districts and Lancaster County schools would get $35 per student, while Chester County would get $50 per student.

“I really like what’s trying to happen with technology,” said York Superintendent Vernon Prosser, a sentiment echoed by administrators in Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Clover.

But what each district would get to spend on technology under Haley’s proposal pales in comparison to what the districts have already spent or are planning to spend:

• York schools would get $171,703. Wireless overlay computer network improvements the district hope to complete will cost the district $800,000.

“There’s a big differential there, but it’s more than I had when we started,” Prosser said.

• Clover schools would get $227,055. The district recently launched a $4.3 million initiative to put an Apple iPad or MacBook Air in the hands of every student by next fall.

Superintendent Marc Sosne said any additional technology money would be appreciated. “Every dollar helps offset the commitment we’ve already made.”

• Fort Mill schools would get $386,491. The district just spent $2 million to upgrade campus technology.

Superintendent Chuck Epps said the school board invests a substantial amount of money every year on technology upgrades. “Any new money would help.”

• Rock Hill schools would get $594,301. The district is in the first year of iRock, a $9 million, multi-year initiative to put a tablet computer in the hands of every student. This year, iRock rolled out in fourth through eighth grades and some high schools.

In her plan, Haley noted three districts in the state with top campus bandwidth rates, an indication of the speed at which data can travel through a network. One of those is the Rock Hill school district, said Chris Smith, iRock’s project manager.

Haley’s focus on technology validates the hard work of Rock Hill over the last few years to develop and launch iRock and other technology across Rock Hill’s schools, he said.

“We’ve done a lot of work in advance of the governor’s plan,” Smith said.

But Rock Hill still has plenty of technology needs, he said – from professional development, to devices, to technology infrastructure – so any additional money from the state would be put to good use.

Another reason districts are focusing on improving campus technology is the move to a new student assessment next year, Prosser said.

The “Smarter Balance” assessment is taken online, so updated systems are a necessity to administer the tests.

“Districts are going to have to continue to move and upgrade that technology,” Prosser said.

Lancaster County schools would get $405,335 under Haley’s plan, while Chester County would get $264,045.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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