$80 Million Gift To Boost Technology in Idaho Schools
Every public schoolteacher in Idaho will have a new multimedia computer during the next school year, thanks to an $80 million package of technology grants from the Boise-based J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation.
State education officials say the three-year technology initiative, announced May 21, is the largest foundation gift ever awarded to a single state.
In addition to computers, the grants will pay for teacher training, pilot projects using technology, and equipment for professional-technical academies in the state.
The program "fits absolutely beautifully" with the state educational technology plan, said Anne C. Fox, Idaho's superintendent of public instruction. "It's going to be the mortar and bricks to building that foundation we need."
Since 1994, the legislature has appropriated $10.4 million a year for technology funding to Idaho districts, plus $1 million annually to the state's schools of education for training district-level teachers in technology.
That funding hasn't been enough to meet all of Idaho's goals, Ms. Fox said.
"Funding for training has definitely been weak," she said. "There wasn't enough money to go around."
The foundation's focus on teachers fits the state's philosophy, said Rich Mincer, the education department's bureau chief of technology services.
"Teachers are at the top of the food chain," he said. "Teachers are still the center of instruction in the state of Idaho--technology is a tool."
The Idaho Council for Technology in Learning, a 15-member board consisting of the state superintendent, four legislators, and representatives of various state agencies, public schools, and libraries, steered the design of the technology grant program, Ms. Fox said.
The computers for Idaho's 13,000 teachers will be paid for with $28 million in one-time grants to all school districts. Older computers now being used by teachers will be shifted to student use, Mr. Mincer said.
The remaining funds in the Albertson Foundation's educational technology initiative will be distributed over the next three years.
In addition to technology, the private, family foundation announced grant programs last month in three other areas: $24.5 million to improve the reading skills of Idaho pupils in prekindergarten through 4th grade; $3.8 million to help communities highlight the importance of a child's early years to learning; and $2 million to partnerships of Idaho districts and colleges to help some 140 K-12 teachers work toward national certification.
Vol. 17, Issue 38, Page 6