As the money flows, so goes school technology in Mississippi.
For the 2004-05 school year, the legislature approved only a small increase in overall K-12 funding, which forced many of the state’s 147 school districts to make budget cuts in a number of areas, including educational technology. Since general state funding for Mississippi districts must also cover educational technology, state education officials were hoping for a better budget for the 2005-06 school year.
Legislators were debating the education budget and related bills in spring 2005, but some feared that a special session later in the year might be required.
Funding specifically for educational technology has not been provided to school districts. But $318,000 a year has been allocated by the state partly for Office of Educational Technology operating expenses and staff salaries. And that’s how much the state was planning to earmark for the 2005-06 school year. Such aid has remained stable for the last several years.
Two pieces of legislation that were pending could add to Mississippi’s fledgling online-learning opportunities. Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, backed a series of education proposals that would include a provision to allow the state school board to establish a single, statewide online academy for K-12 education. Under the plan, the virtual school would operate using state money at a level equal to the average per-student funding provided in each participating student’s home district. The virtual school would be an expansion of the Mississippi Online Learning Institute, the state’s current distance-learning service.
Over the past year, Mississippi also began running institutes on technology for teachers and school administrators with the help of corporate and philanthropic partners. The institutes train teachers and administrators in how to use technology to analyze and improve student achievement.
The state still provides a training academy for administrators and teachers to help them learn how to use technology more effectively.