Thursday, April 21, 2005

School technology bill slips through

Yesterday, the House approved HB 4 with little debate. In fact only 5 amendments were offered and all but one - by Charlie Howard [PDF], which would have given the State Board of Education more control over textbooks. Howard's amendment was his HB 220 - a favor to SBOE member Terri Leo to try to cut evolution and paste creationism, or t(pr)each abstinence-only sex ed.

HB 4, highly touted by Ross Perot for its strides towards increased technology use in classrooms, will soon move to the Senate for debate. Out of the state's technology allocation - $150 per student - HB 4 would require that $60 per student be designated for a grant program for eligible school districts. However, the Houston Chronicle reported that "The state pays for textbooks, but HB 4 would require districts to put up $50 per student to qualify for the $300 grants."

Considering that schools would have to spend $50 per student to be eligible for the program, basically only the rich schools would get the grants - it is estimated that only 20 percent of school districts would qualify. On top of that, the Legislative Budget Board estimates that the state will have to spend $1.2 billion dollars through FY2010. HB 2 only allocated $3 billion in new money to schools, but this money only offsets inflation and restores cuts from last session. So, I see HB 4 as a way to skirt giving state money to all school districts - this would only consider the richer school districts.

And who's behind this bill? Apple executive Tom Burnett was one of three authors of the "The Texas E-Learning Initiative," which made many recommendations that were key parts of HB 4 (according to the same Houston Chronicle article). Dell backs the measure too.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for technology. I'm all for quality education. I'm all for textbooks that don't list Ann Richards as the current governor of Texas. But the Devil's in the details, and I'm all for giving Texas students the same chances of succeeding, and that's where HB 4 falls short.


At 6:08 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Did Howard's amendment pass? It's unclear.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger imasuit said...

Fortunately not.

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