School district budgets are as tight as ever, with student enrollment at a record high in Texas. The Texas Education Agency’s report “Enrollment in Texas Public Schools 2013-’14” produced in November 2014 documents that
The largest percentage of enrollment in Texas public schools was Hispanic,
More than 60% of all students in 2013-‘14 were identified as economically disadvantaged,
The percentage of students receiving bilingual or English as a second language instructional services grew to slightly more than 17 percent, and
The percentage of students identified as English language learners grew to 17.5 percent.
Schools have additional needs as the population changes. It can cost more to educate children who are learning English as a second language and who face economic disadvantages. So at a time when the majority of districts have funding difficulties, school districts have additional needs. This includes the need for technology, which is increasingly important, so students will be prepared for the challenges of higher education or the work world after high school.
At the Texas Association of School Administrators conference in January, several sessions included discussion of technology use in the classroom. School district policies have changed from restricting cell phone use in school to almost requiring students to bring their own device to class. Technology is being incorporated in the curriculum and students are using online devices to do research in the classroom.
Although smart phones are more prolific in 2014 even in lower socio-economic households, according to data from the Pew Research Center, not every student has a smart phone or tablet to bring to school. Given the tight budgets, how can school districts accommodate the need to purchase technology to give all students the same classroom opportunity?
Harris County Department of Education has some good options. The HCDE technology division offers Learning Management System hosting, training for LMS administration and course design training through their Cirrus Learn program. For more information, contact David McGeary at DMcGeary@hcde-texas.org or go to www.hcde-texas.org/CirrusLearn .
The HCDE Choice Partners cooperative offers more than 100 contracts for technology, including labs, hardware, software, equipment, supplies and services, so buyers can access the technology they need. Many of the contract holders are dealers, so a wide variety of product brands are available. The awarded contracts have “not to exceed” pricing, so members can negotiate reduced rates for higher quantity purchases.
For more information, see all the technology contracts on the Choice Partners website.