Amended Bill Will Assess Digital Infrastructure in Schools

SB 1041, the Digital Equity for All Act, has been amended into a study, as MACo requested in testimony on the bill this year. The amended version of the bill is on the way to passing the Senate.

As introduced, SB 1041 would have required the State 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.

The amendments to SB 1041 strike that language and state:

(a) On or before December 1, 2016, the State Department of Education, in cooperation and coordination with the local school systems in the State, shall conduct an assessment of the physical and digital infrastructure needed to support the integration of digital devices into the State’s education program for all public school students on or before December 31, 2019.

(b) The assessment required under subsection (a) of this section shall include:

  1. a survey of current Internet infrastructure and digital device  availability in Maryland’s public schools;
  2. a cost–estimate of bringing all Maryland public schools up to the level of being able to support one device per student;
  3. any procurement avenues that may prove useful in providing digital devices and related equipment to students across multiple local school systems; and
  4. a cost–estimate of options for providing one device per student, 20 including bring–your–own–device programs.

MACo supported SB 1041 with amendments, requesting further study of the area. From the MACo testimony,

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 more on 2016 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.