A change in New Jersey’s administrative code is enabling state money to be earmarked for educational technology projects as new schools are built or older ones substantially renovated.
Before June 2004, when the revision was approved, districts could fold technology costs into their estimates, but no state allocations were made specifically for technology when schools were built or renovated, says Deputy Commissioner of Education Dwight R. Pfennig.
The code change made technology an allowable expense, permitting some costs to be funded by the Schools Construction Corp., the public agency that oversees the state’s long-term, $8 billion school construction plan. Since then, $6.8 million has been channeled into computer equipment for 20 to 30 schools that are being renovated or built, according to Laurence Cocco, the state’s manager of educational technology.
The idea behind seeking the code change was an attempt to “future proof” schools, Pfennig says. An analysis of school technology showed that the most efficient way to enhance technological capacity was to have schools ready to accept it at the outset, and new construction or renovation offered a timely point for that work, he says.
In 2004, the Garden State also approved a set of technological-literacy standards, laying out what students should know and be expected to do by the time they graduate from high school. An 8th grade technology assessment is being designed that will serve as one of the benchmarks in the new standards, says Cocco.
Meanwhile, a group of 19 technology training centers that had been run by the state department of education to provide workshops for teachers and administrators became independent in 2004 and are still operating.
The bulk of New Jersey’s educational technology funding is folded into consolidated aid that is available for many services, Cocco says. The state has allocated $50 toward educational technology for each of its 1.3 million students, he says, but it is not known whether districts actually choose to spend that much.