Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman said he would ask the Legislature for $9 million to connect every public school classroom in the state to the internet by 2003.
Siegelman said Nov. 29 that the $9 million would provide the equipment and connections necessary to get all Alabama students online. The governor said the money would be used this year as a match to lure $20 million or more in federal money.
State Finance Director Henry Mabry said that it could cost up to $30 million a year in state and federal money to hook up all the state’s classrooms with the latest internet technology. Mabry said that once the computers are hooked up, there would be an additional cost to train teachers and school personnel on how to use the technology.
The plan to upgrade computer technology in Alabama schools was originally part of Siegelman’s plan for a statewide lottery. Alabama voters turned down the lottery proposal last year.
“My funding mechanism to establish classroom technology went with the wind. But I stand committed that Alabama schools have broadband access to the internet by 2003,” Siegelman said.
He said a recent study found that more than 50 percent of Alabama classrooms have no internet connections or are connected with outdated technology. He added that his goal is to make Alabama one of the top 10 states in the country in classroom technology.
State Schools Superintendent Ed Richardson said the biggest challenge is getting computers into rural schools.
“This is still a rural state, and the average school has about 400 students,” Richardson said. “We are unable to teach foreign languages or advanced history in many of those schools. The only way to do it is with computer technology.”