Putting Education Reform To The Test

Can Technology Solve School Funding?

Florida House of Representatives

Florida State Rep. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican.

Technology could provide low-cost solutions for school districts struggling with tight budgets.

That’s what Pinellas County state Rep. Jeff Brandes, a Republican, said at a taping of WUSF’s Florida Matters this week. The show is looking at school issues as students head back to class.

Brandes believes schools can use technology to stretch their budgets. New revenue is unlikely because a tax increase is off the table, he said, and the economy is still slowly recovering from the Great Recession.

Brandes sits on the policy-setting House education committee, and said he favored both virtual charter schools and more widespread use of Apple iPads.

Some Florida districts are already using the $500 iPads in place of textbooks. Virtual charter schools would allow private and non-profit firms to operate online schools. Students taking virtual classes cost 23 percent less than those in traditional brick and mortar schools, according to one estimate.

Brandes believes the devices will drop in price and become more affordable, and that providers might be willing to provide wireless Internet connections to schools or students.

“We need to be pushing the envelope of innovation,” Brandes said.

What do you think are the possibilities? What other technology should schools consider? Does this ignore larger questions about school funding?


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