School Technology Spending on the Rise, Survey Predicts

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The nation's schools are projected to spend an estimated $5.2 billion on educational technology during this school year, up 21 percent from 1996-97 spending, a survey suggests.

That would be the largest such increase since 1994-95, when technology spending rose 29 percent over the previous year, according to the 1997-98 Technology Purchasing Forecast, a survey of school districts by the Denver-based research firm Quality Education Data. The technology survey was mailed to 2,500 school districts nationwide, and 165 responded.

The marked growth in projected school district spending comes from a political consensus that ranks technology a high priority for schools and a "dramatic increase" in cash from both government grants and bond issues, said Jeanne Hayes, the president of QED.

The expected increase reflects "a bipartisan interest in school technology investments," she said.

And rather than thinking of new technology as a one-time-only expenditure, Ms. Hayes said, states and districts are putting together long-range technology plans that include money needed for upgrading computer equipment.

Software Purchases Rising

The study also forecasts an increase from last year on software expenditures, with 49 percent of the districts surveyed reporting an increase, compared with 34 percent in 1996-97.

Most of the software purchases will consist of CD-ROMs for use on multimedia computers, which have sound and graphics capabilities, according to QED.

Technology Spending in K-12 Public Schools

Microsoft Corp. leads the list of companies that districts are planning to buy software from this school year. Other leading companies are expected to be Broderbund Software, Claris Corp., Tom Snyder Productions, and Sunburst Communications.

Expenditures on hardware--mostly personal computers and servers--are projected to increase in 41 percent of the districts surveyed, compared with 65 percent of districts last year, the report says. Last year's spending on hardware was unusually high, it says, because more schools were focused on putting the infrastructure in place for networking and Internet access.

Most planned hardware purchases will be Wintel products--personal computers powered by Intel Corp.'s computer chips and using Microsoft's Windows software--followed by Macintosh and Apple brand products.

QED researcher Laurie Christensen said she could not pinpoint why the response rate for the survey dropped from 8.4 percent last year to 6.6 percent this year. But she added that the responses yielded enough data to extrapolate national spending projections.

"It's a very long, complicated, involved survey," Ms. Christensen said.

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