The cost to put computing devices in the hands of every student in Utah could get ugly and stay ugly: as much as $750 million to get started in the first year and then $300 million each year after that.
Those numbers come from the Utah Governor’s Education Excellence Commission in a draft of a report that is expected to come out next month. It’s also much higher than the $300 million that some state legislators thought it would cost.
“The governor is supportive of technology in schools,” said Tami Pyfer, the governor’s education adviser, in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday. “… Again it’s how to manage the amount of funds it will take to get us to a one-to-one ratio in the schools, and is that doable given the budget constraints we have at this time?”
The Tribune, which obtained a copy of the draft report, outlined some of the expenses included along with the cost of the devices themselves: at least one full-time technology specialist at every school at about $90 million a year; regular replacement of devices at $55 million a year; and teacher training at $105 million initially and $40 million a year after that.
Utah House Speaker Becky Lockhart, who has detailed plans to spend $300 million of state money on this technology, said some of the money could come from shifting some of the $35 million used on textbooks to digital upgrades.
Lockhart said she is looking everywhere in Utah’s state budget, from education to transportation, but doesn’t see an appetite for a tax increase to pay for the proposal.
Regardless of the exact price, the question of exactly how to pay for Lockhart’s ambitious project remains unanswered.
“Let’s try not to be so focused on the money,” Lockhart told members of the Republican House caucus Thursday afternoon. “If this is the vision we want to have for education, if this is where we know we’re headed then we’ll find the money.”