Special Report


By Mary Ann Zehr — May 03, 2005 1 min read

Montana’s schools will receive about $21 per student in the 2004-05 school year for educational technology through the state’s sale of trees cut down on state land.

The state doesn’t have a line item in its budget for school technology, but during most school years, it provides some money for such technology through a fund created with money from timber sales.

Fortunately, “timber prices are up,” says Joe Lamson, the communications director for the Montana Office of Public Instruction. Schools’ 2004-05 aid from the special fund will total some $3 million. Typically, the money goes for computer hardware or software, or for professional development, according to Lamson.

That latest amount is considerably more than schools have received from the fund for the past few school years. In 2001-02, they got just $156,750—or about $1 per student—from the fund. In 2002-03, schools didn’t get anything because revenue from timber sales was used to help balance the state budget. Schools got $1.9 million in 2003-04.

While Montana doesn’t operate any statewide technology initiatives paid for with state revenue, the office of public instruction has tried to guide districts in using technology money from the federal government effectively, says Michael W. Hall, a specialist for a technology grant the state gets under the No Child Left Behind Act.

For example, during the 2003-04 school year, the state agency began to require districts applying for competitive grants under Title II to form consortia that included at least one college or university. Also, while the federal government required districts to use 25 percent of such technology funds for professional development, Montana education officials gave districts extra points in the grant-application process if they proposed spending at least 50 percent of their aid on professional development.

The districts that won the federal grant money are participating in a program called Partnerships for Student Academic Achievement Through Technology. Through the program, schools that have infused technology into teaching and learning team up with other schools that haven’t. Six districts won the grants and have formed consortia with a total of six colleges and universities and 28 additional school districts.