MACo Requests Cost Estimate In Place of Mandate on School Technology

MACo submitted written testimony in support with amendments to SB 1041, Education – Digital Equity for All Act, to the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 16, 2016.

As introduced, SB 1041 would require the Maryland State Department of Education to develop and adopt infrastructure standards that support the use of digital devices on a ratio of one device to one student, and would mandate local school systems to meet that standard by 2019. Additionally, the bill would establish a new grant program, with a requirement for the Governor to place $3.5M in the State budget annually from FY18-22.

From the MACo testimony,

County governments appreciate the attention and funding that this legislation directs to school infrastructure needs. There are concerns that Maryland schools have varying levels of internet infrastructure, creating inequities.

Without a comprehensive needs assessment of the current state of infrastructure, it is difficult to determine the realistic costs of reaching a goal of supporting one portable digital device per student by 2019.

A comprehensive needs assessment of the areas in the legislation would expose any unevenness in the internet infrastructure of Maryland schools and would allow the State to estimate the actual costs of reaching the legislation’s intended goal. Without this assessment, this legislation may unintentionally create a new under-funded mandate for the school system, compromising other education priorities and straining county resources.

For these reasons, MACo recommends the Committee issue a FAVORABLE report on SB 1041 WITH AMENDMENTS to direct a critical evaluation of the tasks and costs ahead.

For more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.