This year, schools across America will spend an estimated $10 billion on educational technology solutions. Laptops, tablets, and curriculum software are eating up school budgets and forcing districts to make cuts to existing programs like libraries, music, art, theater, and sports. The rush to put a connected device in the hands of every student is often a misguided, yet hopeful, attempt to leapfrog over existing problems by purchasing new technology.
As a former school administrator, I have been on the inside of many budget planning sessions. They generally start the same way each year. The business administrator or superintendent delivers the bad news that salaries and benefits (usually 80-85 percent of the total budget) as well as other fixed costs like fuel are continuing to go up, but the board would like to see a flat budget, or possibly a nominal increase of 1 or 2 percent. Do more with less.
A major technology investment is a rare opportunity. It’s usually a one-time event resulting from an unanticipated budget surplus, or the passing of a special warrant article. Often times, it’s a last-minute budget proposal that has not been communicated to staff and doesn’t align with curriculum expectations.
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