We're #1 ?but for how long? by the Plain Talk South Dakotans are used to hearing mixed news about public education.
Student test scores, for example, consistently rank high. Teacher pay, compared to other states, constantly comes in at the bottom of the list.
So it�s natural to at first feel overjoyed when reading a May 5 report in Education Week magazine.
When it comes to providing technology to students, South Dakota ranks (drum roll please) number one.
Stop rubbing your eyes. You read that correctly. We actually rate first in something education-related.
Our joy, however, at best will likely be short-lived. We�ll talk about that later.
In 2004, in schools throughout the United States, there were on average 3.8 students per instructional computer. In South Dakota, the number of students was only 1.7 per computer.
Students per instructional computer located in classrooms averaged 7.5 nationwide, and 3.5 in South Dakota in 2004.
Students per internet-connected computer averaged 4.1 in the U.S. in 2004, and 1.9 in South Dakota. Students per internet-connected computer located in classrooms in 2004 averaged 8.0 nationwide and only 4.0 in our state.
We can thank Gov. William Janklow�s efforts approximately four or five years ago for South Dakota�s top ranking.
If you remember, the former governor was crazy about wiring our school districts. He even surprised public school districts one year by delivering new computers to school buildings before any officials requested them.
We mentioned earlier that our joy over our high ranking likely will be short-lived.
Any public institution or private business has come to discover in recent years that computers are incredible pieces of technology. They have a nagging characteristic, however.
They become obsolete almost as soon as you plug them in.
Our school�s computers likely have a bit of life left in them. Our concern, however, is that as our hardware and software grows older, it will become more difficult, and in some cases, perhaps, impossible for our students to keep up with national educational trends.
The answer to this problem will, eventually, include an outlay of revenue to purchase new computers and new software.
That�s one of the biggest challenges our state may face. South Dakota isn�t particularly flush with cash, and it likely will be difficult to find the extra revenue needed to update our school�s computer systems.
One source of hope is a rather simple fact: Somehow, Janklow provided technology for our schools, wired them all, and paid for it.
Hopefully, we can build on that by keeping these computers systems modern and useful for students.
Money will be needed to update technology, replace old computers, train teachers to use them in teaching core subjects, and provide security of student and district databases.
South Dakota will need to seek funding from a variety of sources, including grants, public/private partnerships, and the federal government.
We also, on the state level, must be prepared to pony up some dough ourselves. One straightforward method would be through a line item in the state budget. For example, North Dakota provides $1.3 million in its information technology department�s budget for EduTech, a program that provides training and other services to educators.
The time to start thinking about this is now. Any delay likely will mean that in the area of technology in schools, South Dakota children will soon be left behind.
The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials
reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org