Over the past five years, Kentucky has gone from having one of the most modern computing environments in its schools to one of the least up-to-date.
David C. Couch, an associate commissioner of education in Kentucky’s office of education technology, says that has happened because educational technology, from all funding sources, has been underfunded by about $50 million a year for the past five years. State officials examined spending data on projects in the state’s technology master plan to determine that amount.
For the 2004-05 school year, Kentucky spent a total of $70 million on educational technology from local, state, and federal funds, roughly the same amount it spent for the previous school year.
The Bluegrass State made an initial investment of $620 million, from 1992 to 2000, to install a complete voice-video and data system for schools, under the first phase of its technology master plan, called Kentucky Education Technology Systems, or KETS.
In doing that, Kentucky was one of the first states to have all those components in place, state officials say, but subsequent educational technology spending hasn’t kept up.
For instance, under the second phase of the plan, which is now in its fourth year, officials recommended that KETS receive funding of $35 million. But for fiscal 2005, the state decided it could afford to give the program $15 million less than that amount.
In December 2004, state officials got the results of a technology-readiness survey of Kentucky’s 176 school districts. The state had decided to survey schools because Kentucky is looking at a list of large-scale technology projects, including online testing, and officials needed to know whether such projects are possible.
Based on the results of the survey, state officials concluded that Kentucky has only enough technological power to test 2,000 students online at a time. The state also needs to help schools replace computer workstations, the survey found. Districts reported that 75 percent of student workstations and 67 percent of teacher workstations were too old to run current applications, such as online testing.
Kentucky schools also need more technical-support workers. In May 2004, the state commissioned an efficiency study that found that the average district had fewer than three technical-support employees, while comparable organizations have from 10 to 15.