Washington state has a small pot of money to aid educational technology, and it is mainly allocated between two major initiatives: the nine educational technology support centers the state runs and a K-20 telecommunications network that serves K-12 schools and colleges and universities in the state.
Funding for the past two bienniums—2003-05 and 2001-03—for each of the programs has been around $3.9 million, according to David Walddon, the K-20 program manager for the state superintendent’s office. But he says the state is running a $2.2 billion shortfall out of a $25.1 billion budget, so he is not sure how much money will be allocated to educational technology for the 2005-07 biennium.
The K-20 network offers an online data and video network to 426 public education sites throughout the state, including community colleges, regional universities, and research institutions, as well as Washington’s 296 school districts and nine educational service districts. Recent state spending under the initiative has focused on installation of fiber-optic cable, which allows for faster and more powerful access to the Internet.
State funding also included $1.6 million over the 2004-05 school year for Washington’s Digital Learning Commons, a nonprofit organization offering educational materials, online courses, and technology tools to about 35,000 students in 60 public high schools and five middle schools across the state.
Judy Margrath-Huge, the nonprofit group’s president and chief executive officer, expects the state to allocate about $3 million in funding over the next biennium, starting in July, when the Digital Learning Commons graduates from its pilot phase. For the 2005-06 school year, while schools will pay a small fee for students to take courses, that fee will be offset by course-credit funds the Digital Learning Commons plans to offer. Those credit funds will be based on a school’s scores on state tests, its graduation rate, and its poverty rate.
The Digital Learning Commons also plans to expand its middle school enrollment for the 2005-06 school year from 1,600 to 2,000 students and add some pilot elementary schools. Its eventual goal is to make the online program available to all public schools and some private schools in the state, says Margrath-Huge.
The Evergreen State has also devised a student-records system that offers an easy way for districts to organize data such as enrollment figures and special education statistics online and send the information to the state. State officials use the records system to fulfill federal and state reporting requirements.