Despite a downward trend in funding for educational technology, South Carolina is trying to stretch its dollars to start and maintain certain programs.
Five years ago, state lawmakers allotted $40 million for K-12 educational technology efforts, but that figure has steadily dropped. For the 2004-05 school year, it was $15.9 million.
And in March 2005, legislators were debating the composition of a new state budget that, under one version, would cancel all state funding for school technology, sending a lump sum to local districts to decide spending priorities on their own.
Regardless of how the funding decisions play out, the state has started several technology initiatives in 2004 and early 2005 that it hopes to keep afloat.
The state’s first online professional-development system began in early 2004. It was offering more than 50 courses and had reached more than 1,100 educators through February of this year, says Don Cantrell, the state education department’s coordinator of technology media services. Most of the courses were for teacher- license renewal, but some also were offered for graduate school credit, he says.
Proceeds from the South Carolina lottery have paid for a new student-identification system in which every pupil will be assigned a unique number. The system is scheduled to be launched in June in seven school districts, and the state is requesting $800,000 annually from the legislature to take the system statewide permanently. The system can keep track of students through high school, and officials were in talks with universities to expand the system into higher education.
Also, South Carolina used federal money to hire and train 30 full-time instructional technology coaches, who are assigned to needy rural and urban schools across the state. The coaches work full time with teachers to help them learn how to use technology effectively in their teaching.