Missouri’s educational technology efforts, once fueled by $15 million to $20 million a year in state funding, have been running on fumes from the state for the past three years, according to Deborah K. Sutton, the instructional technology director for the Missouri education department.
She says lawmakers’ reluctance to pour more money into schools’ technology needs may stem from a combination of factors besides a lean overall state education budget.
“There is a perception among some people that once you buy the equipment, there aren’t any more costs,” says Sutton. “But schools also have the responsibility of really showing legislators what good educational technology can do, and I don’t think schools have done a good job of that.”
Still, instructional technology programs for disadvantaged schools forge on with help under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which enabled Missouri to funnel $9.5 million in federal funds to such programs for the 2004-05 school year, Sutton says. But that aid will drop to $6.8 million for the following fiscal year.
Half the $9.5 million supports formula grants for schools, while the other half pays for a program called eMINTS, which stands for “enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies.” Its aim is to provide professional development and ongoing support so that teachers of grades 3-8 can incorporate technology into teaching approaches that are more oriented to discovery- or hands-on learning. So far, 800 teachers have undergone training, and the education department expects to expand the program into high schools within two years.
Currently, the state continues to help pay for a low-cost Internet network used by K-12 schools, libraries, colleges and universities, government offices, and other public entities in the state. Schools pay a minimal participation fee, Sutton says, but the state foots the bill for the backbone of the network and for special services, such as a help desk, free access to some databases, and training for users.