Texas Has a Few Requests


A new long-range technology plan asks state legislators to think big.

Geoffrey H. FletcherWHY DON’T YOU BUY a ticket, Fletcher?” As an athlete in high school, I dreaded those words. What they meant in coach-speak was that I was standing around watching; I wasn’t making something happen. In football, I was supposed to be blocking somebody, anybody, all the time. In basketball, I was supposed to be moving constantly, cutting to the basket or setting screens. In golf, my coach put it to me differently. He questioned how someone with my grades couldn’t focus for the five to 10seconds it took to hit the ball.

Fortunately, the state of Texas can’t be accused of standing around watching. The Texas State Board of Education passed the “Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020” at its regular meeting last month. The plan was developed over a two-year period by the staff of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), with significant input from the Educational Technology Advisory Committee (ETAC)—of which I am a member.

The plan addresses four major areas: Teaching and Learning; Educator Preparation and Development; Leadership, Administration, and Instructional Support; and Infrastructure. Each section has suggestions for everyone in the education system, from the TEA to parents and the private sector. Most important, as a way of making things happen, are the requests made to the state Legislature.

Here are the highlights:

  • Bump the technology allotment in the state budget from the current $27 per student per year to $50 per student in 2007-08, and increase it annually by $10 until it reaches $123 per student per year, the amount ETAC deems necessary to bring every district up to the Advanced Tech level on the Texas School Technology and Readiness (STaR) Chart.
  • Create a new budget allocation for infrastructure, technical support, and disaster-recovery planning to ensure anytime access to robust bandwidth for teaching and learning, and data for decision making. The money would begin at $35 per student and increase as demand for infrastructure grows.
  • Fund the TEA educational technology division and set aside $450,000 for each of its 20 Education Service Centers to provide leadership and support.
  • Promote teaching with technology. Establish an endorsement for technology and approved training programs with state reporting requirements in order to hold districts accountable for teachers acquiring technology competencies. Fund stipends for master technology teachers, who, according to Texas law, agree to mentor other teachers on using technology in the classroom. The law has been in place, but not funded.
  • Create equity and economies of scale for library materials delivered electronically. This $4 million investment would restore a service previously in place.
  • Develop and mandate state data standards for all district applications required by the state or funded with state funds to meet interoperability and accessibility requirements.

These are bold requests that the board of education is endorsing. Texas has about 4 million students, so the funding proposals for 2007-08 alone total in the neighborhood of $356 million. And the amounts allotted for technology and infrastructure are slated to grow over time. One might even call the requests unreasonable. However, as Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress de-pends on the unreasonable man.”

—Geoffrey H. Fletcher, Editorial director

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.