Florida Ed Board Pushes More Funding, And Testing Tech Review

May 20, 2015

Florida's State Board of Education
Credit Florida Department of Education

Florida’s education board is debating how much technology is needed in the state’s public schools. The conversation comes amid ongoing problems with computer-based exams and testing concerns.

Florida’s been transitioning to computer-based testing since 2010. But the state’s new exams were plagued by computer problems, and complaints that schools don’t have enough computers to administer them.

“If we’re going to adhere to our strategic plan, which I see no reason why we shouldn’t this should be one of our priorities," said Vice Chairman John Padget.

The board’s strategic plan calls for a 1:1 student-to-device ratio by 2018. Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says the state needs to decide how computers and other technologies should be used.

“If we are purchasing technology for the sake of testing, we’re not approaching this correctly. But if we believe technology is the key to unlocking the classroom and improving instruction, then that’s the direction to go," Steward said.

A review of the state’s new exams will include an examination of the technology problems that plagued the Florida Standards Assessment this year.

The board is also reiterating Governor Rick Scott's legislative priority of more money for education.  Scott's call for "record" education spending in the upcoming fiscal year is being overshadowed by a potential billion-dollar budget hole due to healthcare funding problems. Board member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey says lawmakers need to put more money into the system.

“We are not looking for an additional scope on top of an already flush cash fund. We have been extremely lean in comparison to our colleague states and we have out-performed them. So when we say we need funding, we mean it," she said.

Florida has historically ranked near the bottom when it comes to funding schools. The House and Senate both proposed increases to education, but are considering diverting some of that money to backfill the state’s healthcare portion of the budget. The state could lose all or part of a joint state-and federal program that reimburses hospitals for uncompensated care.