Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Will Spend Big on Technology; the Board and Superintendent Plan to Pull Millions from a Special Fund

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Schools Will Spend Big on Technology; the Board and Superintendent Plan to Pull Millions from a Special Fund

Article excerpt

Byline: TIA MITCHELL

The Duval County school district has drastically increased the amount it spends on technology upgrades for local schools, but Superintendent Joseph Wise said it is still far short of what's needed to bring schools up to date.

At Wise's urging, during the 2007-08 year the district will draw $33.3 million for technology from a pot of local property tax dollars used for capital projects. State law considers technology upgrades an appropriate use of capital dollars.

The total technology budget is projected to be $54 million.

During 2006-07, the school system more than doubled the capital spending used for technology from $10 million to $24 million. The new money paid for science lab upgrades as well as the district rollout of three new software programs.

The increases are the first steps toward bridging a $93 million gap in technology spending first identified last year. However, Wise and other district officials say closing the gap entirely will require a huge influx of cash, renewing their interest in a voter-approved tax increase. However, officially the district is not pursuing such a measure.

Wise said his decision to beef up spending is based on his research of high-performing schools.

"You see a huge use and utilization of technology with students to enhance their learning by increasing their engagement and focus and time on task," Wise said.

The software programs can instantly adjust to individual student needs and deficiencies, making classroom teachers more effective and improving student achievement.

School Board Chairwoman Vicki Drake said she supports the increased investment in technology because student response has been positive.

"The technology is the way that they get it. If you're really going to reach children, you have to reach them at the level where they are," she said.

According to the school system's newly approved technology plan, $15.6 million in capital dollars will be used next year for retrofitting older schools with better wiring; $8. …

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