Illinois Board of Education chair wants $250 million tech fund

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The chairman of the Illinois state Board of Education wants to create a $250 million technology fund that would expand broadband access, upgrade wiring in schools, train teachers in technology and buy devices.

“It’s not chalkboards and textbooks anymore,” board Chairman Gery Chico told business and education leaders at a City Club luncheon. “Don’t get me wrong, I love books. But today, a student with a device in their hands and a connection to the Internet can have more capacity than the Chicago Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library all put together.”

The funds are necessary, Chico said Tuesday, and needed in part because the state will be unable to administer a new type of standardized tests next year unless more schools are wired for the Internet and outfitted with computers.

The tests are meant to be given on a computer, but only about 25 percent of the state’s schools are currently equipped to administer the exams. The new tests go along with more rigorous learning standards the state has adopted.

Chico said Illinois students’ access to technology varies widely, with some students in the state learning in classrooms with iPads and interactive smart boards, and others unable to access the Internet. The state has a responsibility to address those inequities, Chico said.

State education officials say if schools are not ready by spring 2015 to administer the state exam online, the cost of offering a paper test will be about $7 per child.

Chico is proposing the creation of a $250 million “Illinois Schools Technology Fund” that he suggests the state could use $176 million in unspent school construction funds, and augment with general state funds.

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Education & STEM, Gery Chico, Illinois, State & Local News, States
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