TECHNOLOGY is moving into America's classrooms at an unsteady
pace as states adopt a patchwork of new programs. In some cases,
strong leadership or innovative funding is bringing changes to
schools in areas rarely considered technological or economic
In West Virginia, Gov. Gaston Caperton (D) has pushed for the
use of technology in education throughout his six years in office.
So far, 12,000 computer work stations have been installed in
elementary schools, and this fall the state teamed with Bell
Atlantic to begin a program called "World School," designed to
eventually give its public schools access to the Internet.
"From kindergarten, every student learns to read, write, and do
arithmetic on a computer," says Governor Caperton, touting his
state's technological advances.
West Virginia's program is being paid for with proceeds from the
state lottery, plus donations of time and equipment from companies
like Bell Atlantic.
While other states are experimenting with different programs,
funding methods vary. In Iowa, for example, Gov. Terry Branstad (R)
persuaded the Legislature five years ago to finance a new
fiber-optic system for education and other services.
The state has a long involvement with "distance learning,"
which connects teachers and students through telecommunications. So
far, only 50 high schools are hooked up to the new fiber-optic
network, but the state has negotiated contracts to expand that to
500 schools - both secondary and elementary.
Missouri, on the other hand, has made strides in equipping its
schools with satellite hookups and other technological
infrastructure. Its main source of funding has been a tax on video
Meanwhile, Texas has for a number of years included in its
annual education budget $30 per pupil for technology. The money
goes in a variety of directions: professional development for
teachers who use computers in their classrooms, special software
projects (such as programs aimed at English-as-a-second-language
students), and the statewide telecommunications network, which has
35,000 teachers on-line on a regular basis. Local school districts
also receive funding for new equipment.
A major new impetus for states hoping to wire their classrooms
comes from the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, says Frank Withrow,
executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers.
Signed last March by President Clinton, the act provides grant
money to states that draw up plans for integrating technology into
their schools. Most states are busily devising such plans, which
include "a variety of funding mechanisms," Mr. Withrow says.
Georgia is another state that allocates lottery income to
technology for education, to the tune of about $90 million a year,
Withrow says. The state has a satellite network connecting 200
"distance learning sites." North Carolina's Legislature has
earmarked sizable amounts - $42 million this year - for computer
and telecommunications capabilities in its schools. Adding to the
list of states is Kentucky, which is recognized as a leader in
education reform and technology.
Another source of funding, Withrow says, are certain
"overcharges" that result when telephone companies charge the
public higher rates than state public-utility commissions
ultimately allow. …