Position of Business and Education for Schools and Technology
(B.E.S.T. is a coalition of business, education, and labor organizations)
on Reauthorization of Chapter 70
Testimony by Beth Lowd, on behalf of B.E.S.T.,
December 12, 2000
B.E.S.T. recognizes the commitment of the Governor's Office and the Great and General Court over the past seven years in financing Educational Reform. We recognize that we must all work to build on the improvements accomplished in order to further establish the Commonwealth as a national leader in providing students with opportunities for success predicated on achievable and high standards.
We further recognize that to continue building a strong economy in the Digital Age, it is time to address those areas that were not adequately funded for the past seven years as part of the Foundation One of these is technology, which is the focus of our recommendations.
We refer you to two key publications, which we believe will help you in your deliberations:
Taking TCO to the Classroom: A School Administrator's Guide to Planning for the Total Cost of New Technology, a 1999 position paper issued by the Consortium for School Networking. (http://www.cosn.org/tco/project_pubs.html)
Local Technology Plan Benchmark Standards for the Year 2003, issued in May 2000 by the Massachusetts Department of Education. (http://www.doe.mass.edu/edtech/broad/standardslet.html)
The B.E.S.T. Position
We believe that the Foundation Budget should include the key elements that are essential for effective implementation and sustained use of technology, consistent with the goals of education reform and student achievement. The amount of the Budget must be increased to reflect the real costs of using computer technology, networks and the Internet not only in teaching and learning, but also in the management and administration of schools.
The new Benchmark Standards suggest that districts should be spending around $275 per year once they reach the hardware, staffing, training and networking goals.(p.5) Many national estimates place the cost nearer $400 per student per year. (See the Total Cost of Ownership paper cited above.) Our calculations suggest that a total figure of $340 per student would be adequate. We recognize that some of these expenditures may be contained under larger categories in the Foundation Budget, but we want to make sure the costs of increased technology staff, professional development, networks, maintenance, and hardware replacement are really reflected in those line items.
The cover sheet of the Local Technology Plan Benchmark Standards for the Year 2003 contains two important statements that unite technology use and education reform:
The Massachusetts Technology Mission Statement:
"To use information technology to improve lifelong learning and teaching in the Massachusetts public school system while contributing to economic development and fostering greater equity with the Commonwealth."
Mission Statement of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act:
"The mission of public education in Massachusetts is to provide each and every student with the values, knowledge and skills needed to achieve full potential in his or her personal and work life and to contribute actively to the civic and economic life of our diverse and changing democratic society."
The Massachusetts Department of Education requests each district to renew its Local Technology Plan annually. The 2003 Benchmark Standards provide a framework for making substantial progress and are consistent with the federal government requirements that a district have a state approved plan in order to be eligible for E-rate discounts. It should be noted, however, that these are standards established for 2003, long before the education reform effort is complete. At the rate technology is developing, the standards will be outdated soon thereafter.
Consistent with the above, we believe it is essential that each of the following categories of costs be identified in a Technology recommendation:
Human Resources - $120 per student per year
Leadership, Curriculum Integration, Administration, Network, Technical Support
In 1993, computers and networks were not as much a part of daily life in schools. As they have become a theme in the ongoing activities of educators and students, we have seen the need for significant support roles that did not exist earlier. While we recognize that some of the funding for salaries might be allocated in various positions, it is also important to recognize that effective use of technology involves a significant commitment to personnel. Technology use can be administered and supported in different ways depending on the school district size and organization.
The leadership in technology role might be assigned to a technology coordinator or director or an assistant superintendent or principal (part time). In smaller districts, the role of Curriculum Integration Specialist could be a part time responsibility of a library/media specialist, technology specialist, and/or mentors supported by technology aides or tutors. Network and technical support is essential in dealing with daily operations as well as ongoing maintenance and repair. The bottom line, however, is that staff must be increased to provide leadership, network administration, technical support and curriculum integration support for teachers. Simply adding responsibilities to existing personnel will never be adequate. Without dedicated leadership and support, teachers, students, and administrators will not get their moneys worth from the technology purchased by a district.
Department of Education Benchmarks suggest 1.0 FTE tech support person for every 100-200 computers and 0.5FTE curriculum integration support for every 30-60 staff members. The tech support cost of $75 per student includes 1.0 FTE per 150 computers paid at a rate of $55,000 (total including fringes) with 5:1 students per computer. This cost can be reduced somewhat for sites that have standardized on computer makes and models, but may be higher if the district accepts used computers or mixes brands over years of purchasing. Curriculum integration cost at $45 per student is similarly treated using a $45,000 total compensation expense.
Professional Development - $20 per student per year
Funding for professional development as a key element in education reform was recognized in the original implementation of the Education Reform Act. Funding for technology professional development was not included in that vision. Districts need to provide training for effective use of technology as tools for improved personal and professional productivity that address the needs of all students. Curriculum integration, assessment, and assistive technology for special needs students are three prime areas where ongoing support is essential. The benchmarks suggest that a district should try to reach 85% of its staff with technology professional development each year. They emphasize the sort of informal ongoing mentoring that many schools have found most effective. Our cost estimate of $20 per student is based on two days of training for each teacher.
Maintenance of Hardware - $20 per student per year
Some technology issues can and will be addressed through contracted services. The cost is typically 15% of the cost of the equipment. Including a specific line in school district budgets would encourage individual districts to explore the potential cost effectiveness of this approach, whether alone or through collaborative measures.
Hardware and Infrastructure - $130 per student per year
Planning for and purchasing hardware that meets the needs for administration, teaching and learning are essential in the budget discussion. The Massachusetts DOE Benchmark Standard 2 is, "By the year 2003, every district will have achieved at least a 5:1 student-to computer ratio of modern, fully functioning, Internet-enabled computers and devices".
There is still a considerable variation in how local districts meet this standard. To achieve and maintain this standard, each district must plan an ongoing campaign to support an appropriate number of computers and devices and to upgrade networks as needed. These must provide access to educational materials that support the Curriculum Frameworks and standards based student assessment. We estimate the cost per student to replace equipment once the 5:1 ratio has been reached is about $100 per student per year. For the many districts that have not reached the 5:1 ratio, the costs are higher until they achieve that ratio. Classroom computers are assumed to cost $2,000 on average, be replaced every four years, and be shared by five students.
Similarly, maintaining capacity of the computing infrastructure that supports the classroom computers is mandatory. This includes servers, network equipment, storage capacity, and peripherals, such as printers. These costs are estimated at 30% of the classroom computer replacement costs, or $30 per student per year.
Software - $40 per student per year
Software purchasing is another ongoing budget matter that should be addressed in the same context as purchasing textbooks and other educational supplies. This cost will permit purchasing only one upgrade of a core software package plus one instructional title per computer each year. It assumes software will be shared on a server.
Connectivity - $10 per student per year
The emergence of E-rate funding and the ability to purchase Internet connectivity through statewide and regional efforts are clearly related directly to the continuing implementation of education reform. A separate budget line item will allow districts to accurately track spending on this component. Because of Mass. Community Networks lower costs, our estimate is considerably less than most of the studies cited in the TCO paper that we cited above.
It is the recommendation of BEST that a new Foundation Budget Line for Technology be set at a minimum of $340/Pupil. We have detailed the amount for each category of cost so as to facilitate your including appropriate increases in various existing line items in the Budget, if you prefer to do that rather than lump all technology expenditure s in one line. We have attached charts that illustrate these cost categories. We encourage the commission to identify items in the Foundation Budget that need to be adjusted because of the increased use of technology by teachers, administrators and students and to increase them accordingly.
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