Florida allocated about $55.6 million in state funds to support public school technology for the 2004-05 school year, and state officials expect that amount to stay about the same for the upcoming school year.
While the state’s 73 school districts have considerable autonomy over how they spend the money, the Florida Department of Education recommends that districts spend it in line with the state technology plan.
To bolster technology efforts, many Florida districts spend more than twice what they get from the state on educational technology, pulling together resources from federal, state, and local governments as well as private sources.
For the 33,000-student Leon County Schools, one of Florida’s top 20 districts in size, the state allocation for this school year was about $900,000. The district used about $230,000 on technology infrastructure and prorated the rest for schools to use in support of their own school improvement plans, according to Bill Piotrowsky, the executive director for technology and information services for the Leon County schools.
“Alternative funding sources,” Piotrowsky says, “are easily ten times the amount we receive from the state.”
The county’s half-cent sales tax has provided critical funding for technology infrastructure and instructional software. The revenue has enabled schools to replace computers every five years.
Meanwhile, Just Read! Florida is the state’s only statewide reading initiative, and it offered $32 million in grants for the 2004-05 school year to elementary and middle schools. While officials say they can’t estimate the percentage of that money that is spent on educational technology, the grants provide schools with a way to purchase computer software that supports reading instruction.
During the 2003-04 school year, the Florida Virtual School, the nation’s largest state-sponsored online school, reported having about 13,000 actual students enrolled in its courses, a number that jumped to more than 21,000 for the 2004-05 school year.
The school’s 2004-05 budget was $12.5 million.