Op-Ed By Tamar Galatzan in the LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/VTeVrm
2/11/2013 06:21:40 PM PST :: On Tuesday the Los Angeles School Board will consider a Common Core Technology Project Plan. If approved, the plan would initially fund computing devices for 30,000 students at 47 schools for $50 million, beginning this year.
The $50 million expenditure of bond funds would be the first of three phases, which would eventually provide 1:1 technology to every student in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Here is the truth: If we want our students to succeed, we need to give them technology. To compete in today's world, students need access to computers.
We need to give teachers the tools to teach better, to better engage students, to close the digital divide, and to support the Common Core State Standards.
The Common Standards are the new standards that have been approved by more than 45 states and will be implemented in the 2014-15 academic year. They require students to take standardized tests that adjust to the ability of the student, on computers. In this way, the tests can more accurately pinpoint what a student knows and give teachers immediate feedback on where their students are weak. Other standardized tests (like the SAT and GRE) already operate this way.
In January, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson held a teleconference for reporters across the state to promote the Common Core/Smarter Balance Assessments. He urged school districts to continue acquiring technology and praised those that have done
There is only one problem: the technology piece.
Where will the technology come from? Who will pay for it? How will the entire state, and this district, get online and equipped in two years?
In Los Angeles, the ratio of students to computing devices is approximately 8:1, much different that Torlakson's quoted average of 3:1 statewide. If the district does not act now, by the time the tests are administered, the ratio of students to devices (including iPads and computers that are less than four years old) will be closer to 10:1. School districts can use paper and pencil as a stopgap measure, but it will not reflect the abilities of the students in the way the assessments are designed to do.
The amount of money available for school districts to purchase technology is growing smaller, not larger. Computers purchased with vouchers from a Microsoft settlement are getting older, and federal grants, such as e-rate funding, are shrinking, with more schools competing for fewer dollars.
LAUSD considered a number of funding sources to purchase technology, including Title I anti-poverty dollars, textbook funding and the general fund. Unfortunately, none of these sources of funds is enough to provide devices for every (or almost every) child.
Right now, virtually the only money legally available to purchase technology is bond funds. And even if bond funds are used, these dollars cannot be used to fix or maintain computers, train teachers, or provide a technology coordinator at a school site.
After five years of budget cuts, school districts can ill-afford the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to invest in technology. Our schools have billions of dollars of deferred maintenance. We need teachers, nurses, counselors, custodians, plumbers and librarians. And class sizes should be smaller.
California is now 49th in the country in education funding. Our state's kick-the-can-down-the-road policymaking has left us with few other options.
Approving the technology plan on Tuesday is the right thing to do, even though financing the purchase with bond funds is not ideal. Today's students must become proficient with technology to be successful. Waiting for the perfect alignment of resources and policy could shortchange a generation of students.
Tamar Galatzan represents part of the San Fernando Valley on the Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education.
- When you fund something unanticipated with bond funds – something else the voters voted to fund isn’t going to happen. Ms Galatzan and the Board and the superintendent are not discussing what isn’t going to happen.
- The total bill for the entire three-phase project to place tablets or laptops or whatever-it-will-be in the hands of all kids 1:1 will be upwards of $500 million. The current back o’ th’ envelope budgeteering is $700 million.
- These need to be short-term bonds – you cannot finance a purchase for longer than the life of the asset – and tablets/laptops don’t last more than 5 years.
- Ms. Galatzan glosses over this, but the technology is needed to take the Common Core State Standard tests – which will go live in 2014-15.
- The Common Core State Standards will require every student in the United States to have this same level of technology access to take the CCSS computer-adaptive (interactive) tests – which will be online only.
- If it will cost LAUSD $500+ million…
- it will cost California $3 billion (6 million K-12 students @$500) …
- and the entire US $25 billion (49.3 million K-12 students @ 500) – the approximate cost of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
- This first phase is a pilot, and I agree with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Torlakson and Tamar that LAUSD is wise to proceed with the pilot at this time – but the SPI also suggested that this funding be in a future state bond – and we need to make sure that that happens!
- Who will pay to fix or maintain computers, train teachers and staff, and provide a technology coordinator at a school sites? These questions must be asked+answered in the pilot phase! Otherwise no phases 2+3 !
- And as this is a national initiative I suggest that either the entire cost or the interest and debt service on these state bonds be paid from the federal treasury – or from the profits of the testing companies – which are for-profit enterprises.