For Immediate Release
October 29, 2013

State Board Chair calls for development of $250 million Technology Fund to strengthen state’s educational infrastructure

Illinois Schools Technology Fund redirects current funds to meet 21st century learning needs

CHICAGO – Illinois State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico today called on the General Assembly to work with him to develop an Illinois Schools Technology Fund to meet the 21st century needs of students. Chairman Chico proposes using remaining school construction funds as the initial startup for a $250 million technology fund. The State Board is in the process of putting together the Fiscal Year 2015 K-12 education budget request and the Chairman will ask Board members to make his proposal part of that request.

“We need to change from the textbook-driven classrooms and redirect to technology-based ones. We need to move from passive learning to active learning,” Chairman Chico said. “We know that technology drives our economy. If we do not give Illinois students the tools to learn in the 21st century we are setting up Illinois business for failure in the future.”

Illinois districts are implementing the new, more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards and next year will begin online testing with the new Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers (PARCC). The vast majority of schools in Illinois are not technologically prepared to provide students with a technology-based curriculum or to administer new online assessments.

At the end of the past school year, the Illinois State Board Education partnered with Education SuperHighway, a not-for-profit whose mission it is to ensure all schools have access to quality technology, to perform online speed tests to determine the level of connectivity within Illinois school districts. Approximately 60 percent of school districts participated in the speed test with the results showing that of those participants, only 25 percent have the infrastructure necessary to participate in digital online learning and testing.

In addition to the online speed test, this summer 82 percent of Illinois districts completed the PARCC Online Technology Readiness survey. Results show that only 31 percent of the devices currently within the districts have the recommended capacity to support digital learning and online testing. If online testing occurred today, only 26 percent of Illinois students would be able to complete it.

Chairman Chico discussed his plan Tuesday at the City Club of Chicago’s public policy luncheon. The proposal calls for using $176 million in remaining bond proceeds from Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now School Construction Program. All of the schools that were entitled to a school construction grant have been issued funds for their projects.

Technology Infrastructure needs for 21st Century Learning and the more rigorous assessments can be categorized into these areas:

“The Illinois Schools Technology Fund will allow schools to get that broadband connection, be wired to meet the needs of new and emerging technologies, host a robust network for the business of learning and provide students with access to technologies and training to teachers,” said Chairman Chico. “Eventually, by eliminating the reliance on textbooks, our schools will begin to better fund their students’ technology needs, but there is going to be a period where they need help making that shift and changing their investment strategies to better meet their students needs, which are increasingly based in technology.”

Chairman Chico will work to develop legislation for implementation of the Illinois Schools Technology Fund. He will also work with members of the State Board to make the fund part of the Board’s FY 15 budget priorities and hopes to have it ready for implementation prior to the next school year.


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