Buck Up, Cowboys: Find the Funds!

Posted by Bob Price on March 19, 2009

Copyright K; used by permission
Kevin Spear; used by permission

As a superintendent who supports the infusion of technology in education and seeks to provide 21st century skills for our students, each year finding the funding to support and expand educational technology becomes more difficult.  My district is suffering from a “perfect storm” of declining enrollment, a state budget crisis, and being a part of ground zero for foreclosures.  As we ponder the crisis before us, the special interests line up and begin their lobbying efforts.  Balancing the competing priorities of class size, music, counseling, libraries, athletics, technology, and safety becomes an almost impossible challenge.

  • “Don’t forget the role of libraries in information literacy,” shout the librarians.  “Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t forget the award you got for supporting libraries.”
  • “How can students suffering from emotional stress be expected to meet state standards?” ask the counselors.
  • “Music helps build reading skills,” shout the music teachers.   “We took our cuts last year.”
  • “Many of our students will drop out if we cut sports,” moan the coaches.
  • “Class size reduction is what allows our student to develop basic literacy,” remind the primary teachers.
  • “I can’t afford printer cartridges now,” complain the teachers who also remind you that you promised them Smartboards.

What’s a superintendent to do?  I strongly believe that our students need access to technological tools if they are to learn in a Web 2.0 world.  We can’t continue to put tech orders on hold, cut tech support, or fail to provide the basic supplies needed by those who use the technology to support instruction.  Certainly technology should suffer its fair share of the hits.  But just because we can save large amounts of money by postponing or canceling tech purchases doesn’t mean we should do it.

It’s my job as the instructional leader of the district to advocate for and support the infusion of technology into the curriculum.  Teachers won’t use technology that is unreliable due to lack of tech support.  Students won’t gain the skills they need for the new workplace by using paper and pencil.  Our very future will suffer dramatically if we are forced to use 20th century tools in a 21st century world.  To my fellow superintendents I say, “Buck up, cowboys.  Find the funds to support the technology.  We may need to reprioritize and look at our world a little differently, but we can’t afford to cheat our students by not supporting them with the technology they need to learn 21st century skills.”

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4 thoughts on “Buck Up, Cowboys: Find the Funds!”

  1. It’s a mixed bag isn’t it? You want to support the existing programs that are lacking funds, but at the same time, you know you need to progress your district into the 21st century. I don’t envy you, but it is all about, like you said, “finding the funds”; or even find the free or low-cost tools out there that will give you the biggest bang for your buck!

  2. Bob,
    Thanks for your solid stand on funding technology in schools. Not only is technology expensive to acquire but the continued expense of maintenance and upgrades presents another level of additional funding. For example, our district purchased Rosetta Stone to use with second language learners but failed to budget headphones with microphones which are an essential part of the technology. So the program is not used effectively. Finally, I am in full agreement, the bottom line is that we can no longer cheat our students out of a first-rate 21st Century education.

  3. While I am a strong proponent of technology, I think that in too many instances we miss the mark in the purpose of technology. I fully believe that our students will learn the technology skills on their own; they are already far ahead of most educators. What we need to focus on is the literacy part that is too often missing, and I don’t beleive this requires us to continue to have the newest and fastest or the computers with the most bells and whistles. We should not focus on teaching students about using the latest technologies because the stuff changes so fast that by the time they get out of school and in the work force whatever we teach them will already be obsolete. Our focus really should be on teaching them how to learn and how to correctly identify and use correct information and this simply does not require us to continue to chace the technology golden ring.

  4. I do agree that you need to continue choosing to fund technology. That being said, you also need to continue to fund libraries and librarians. As I am sure you are aware, it is the credentialed librarians that are your early adopters of technology and who will be a primary support in implementing technology. Technology is good, but you also need to have someone to do the instructional piece.

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