But students' access to those computers -- whether the machines are available, working, updated and upgraded -- often depends on which school a student attends.
Because of cuts in state funding over the past several years, technology upgrades "have been to a large extent left up to the building budgets," Wichita superintendent
"So what we see is inequity from building to building on computer-to-student ratios, as well as the age of those computers," he said. "It's something we're definitely going to have to address."
Officials are hoping a boost in capital outlay funding this year will allow the district to level the playing field among schools and get the district back on a regular, five-year replacement cycle for student computers.
"That doesn't seem very long," Allison said. "But in technology life, that's about 50 years."
That increase would pump nearly
Among possible expenses the board will consider are
"What we've seen in the past is that we just have not been adequately funded to even plan" for regular technology upgrades, Freeman said. "So ... we have principals and staff members trying to make choices on a very limited budget on who gets a new computer and who doesn't.
"I think what we have to do is identify some funding streams so we can do some planning," he said. "With computer technology, you have to have an adequate budget to continually refresh or change."
Allison, the superintendent, said cuts to capital outlay funding from the state -- about
Some principals made up for shortfalls by purchasing computers or software out of their discretionary building budgets. Some schools held fundraisers or applied for grants. Others got upgrades using federal Title 1 money targeted to low-income schools.
"As we look at those aspects, how do we make sure we don't get too far out of whack?" Allison said. "What I'd like to do is pull that out from the buildings having to worry about, and let's look at it as a district and how we're going to approach that systemically."
Over the years, Allison said, the district has targeted upgrades to areas "where the computer is necessary for the class," such as computer programming, high school yearbook, photo imaging or computer graphics classes. Another priority has been computers for annual state assessment tests, which are completed online.
Beyond that, "we've tried to close those gaps" among school buildings, replacing and upgrading computers as funds allowed, Allison said.
"You defer those types of purchases, and then we reach a point where you no longer can defer them," he said. "If you don't have some type of cycle in place, you get to a point where we couldn't afford to replace everything that we'd need."
In coming weeks, as they develop next year's budget, board members will have to weigh technology against other expenses, including security enhancements, telephone upgrades and general building maintenance. The district also is planning a pilot project with Chromebooks in some classrooms, Allison said.
"It's not about the number of computers per student across the district. It's really around equity, that every student has equal access," she said.
"We're talking about (Windows) XP computers still in our students' hands today, when the business community and homes would not have those because of the security risk," she said. "We really are putting our students at a disadvantage ... when they don't have access to the technology."
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