The following article is published with permission from the Quorum Report
UPDATE: As of April 26th, districts have spent $22,374,371 of the IMA on technology related purchases (items in which districts would have funded with their Technology Allotment).-Jennifer Bergland
The State Board of Education has taken the first step in determining the amount it
will send to the Legislature next session to fund textbooks, but Pat Hardy, who chairs the committee that recommended the rate, still has her doubts.
The amount of money that lawmakers might see next requires – no irony, given last week’s
activity – a little bit of math and a whole lot of lingo. On Friday, the full board approved a Permanent School Fund distribution rate of between 3 percent and 3.5 percent. If the model holds true, the half that will go to textbooks will be, at the top, $790 million. That’s about the same amount as the current biennium.
A final vote on distribution, based on the average PSF market value for the trailing 16 quarters, will be in November, if not July. Senate Bill 6 guarantees that half the amount is devoted to textbook and technology purchases over the next two years. No textbooks proclamations will be issued before funds are disbursed.
“I have no idea if this will be enough, in the way of money, to cover the books,” said Hardy, who chairs theSBOE’s finance subcommittee. “There’s always going to be enough money. The real question is whether or not the Legislature wants to use the money for textbooks.”
Last session, the SBOE contribution to the Legislature included $300 million forwarded by the School Land Board, based on House Joint Resolution 109. That money, however, will not be put in the pot of funds devoted to textbooks.
No textbooks are due to be funded next year, although districts must fund continuing materials, such as workbooks. The next year, Proclamation 2014 will be funded; K-8 math, K-12 science; and technical application courses.
What’s out of this equation is technology. Last session, the technology allotment was folded into the textbook allotment, creating the instructional material allotment. Spending is at the discretion of school districts, but districts were strongly encouraged to spend their allotment first on materials to pass the STAAR tests.
“I have a lot of very mixed feelings about the instructional materials allotment,” Hardy said. “I am very keenly aware technology needs to be a part of the school materials, but you’ve got to start with putting your resources toward the materials. I just want to make sure that school districts have all the resource materials they need.”
Districts and charters are given broad discretion in how they spend their IMA allotment. Jennifer Bergland of the Texas Computer Education Association tracks the amount of IMA allotment spent on the traditional technology expenditures that would have been covered by the tech allotment: hardware, software and training.
To date, school districts have spent only $18 million out of $520 million on technology, excluding the supplemental science proclamation, which was electronic. That compares to the $135 million set aside for technology the prior biennium, which would indicate a growing gap in technology needs.
Technology spending can go one of two ways: TCEA and other groups have pushed school districts toward a “Bring Your Own Device” strategy, which would push for materials that can be read on a desktop, laptop or mobile device. Districts also have added large-scale technology purchases to bond election proposals, structuring short-term debt to pay for items such as desktop computers and networking.
By Kimberly Reeves