Every South Dakota high school student should have a laptop computer as part of a statewide effort to boost the use of technology in education, Gov. Mike Rounds told state lawmakers Dec. 6.

If the Republican governor’s $39 million proposal eventually is approved, South Dakota would join several other states–including Massachusetts and New Mexico–in gearing up to launch ambitious, one-to-one computing programs intended to help close the achievement gap and equip students with the technical know-how necessary to succeed in the 21st century.

Such renewed interest in statewide laptop programs comes at a time when state budget scenarios are beginning to turn around.

After a few years of budget deficits, the National Governors Association reported in February that governors in at least 24 states projected stronger-than-anticipated budgets through the end of 2005–and at least nine of these 24 anticipate a spending surplus.

Budget concerns have stalled or curtailed ambitious school laptop programs in Maine and Michigan, two states that were at the forefront of the one-to-one computing movement only a few years ago.

But as fiscal conditions across the country improve, odds are good that more state policy makers and educators will again look seriously at the potential benefits of one-to-one computing programs in their schools.

In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Mitt Romney has said publicly that he would like to get laptops into the hands of every student in his state. Romney’s interest in the concept intensified earlier this year when researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT) announced they had developed a laptop that could sell for as little as $100.

In New Mexico, state education officials are pushing ahead with their Laptop Learning Initiative Pilot program. Launched in 2004, the initiative originally provided laptops to seventh-graders and their teachers at six middle schools across the state. The pilot, which lets students keep their laptops through high school, is seen by many as a precursor to an eventual statewide deployment–one that education department officials say hinges on how much money is provided by the legislature.

In South Dakota, Gov. Rounds proposed using $13 million in state funds to help school districts buy or lease laptop computers for students in grades 9-12. Schools reportedly would provide $2 for every $1 provided by the state, which would bring the total to $39 million spent over several years to buy the laptops.