South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds on April 14 said he continues to look for another source of money to support a program that helps South Dakota school districts provide laptop computers for high school students.
The state Legislature this year rejected the governor’s request for $2.9 million to keep the program going for a third year. Rounds said he still wants to find an alternate source of funding soon, so laptops can be given to more high school students next fall.
"I’m going to continue to try to find resources, whether they’re private or public, to help schools put laptops in the hands of their high school students and in the hands of trained teachers," Rounds said during an appearance on the Dakota News Network radio stations.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Jerry Apa, R-Lead, said a private funding source would be acceptable.
"But if he’s looking for public sources, which is state money, I think that’s terrible because the Legislature’s intent was not to fund it this year," Apa said. "If he goes out and uses state funds for that, all he does is engender animosity among the members of the Legislature. I think it would be a terrible mistake."
During the radio program, Rounds acknowledged that he and the Legislature have disagreed on the program that helps high school students use mobile laptops and technology in their studies.
Schools contribute $2 for every $1 in state money, so the $2.9 million in state funding sought by the governor would have been matched by about $5.8 million by schools.
Rounds said 50 more school districts are interested in joining the program this year, and the funding he requested would have provided laptop computers for another 4,600 students and would have funded the training and equipment to enable 400 teachers to integrate the laptops into their teaching within wireless classrooms.
Students need to know how to use laptop technology when they attend college or get a job, the governor said.
"This is a tool that youngsters have to learn to utilize," Rounds said. "It makes them a whole lot more employable, and it gives them an edge up on those students who don’t know how to utilize the tool of a laptop."
Rounds said lawmakers have been reluctant to fund the laptop program in previous years, so he has found ways to free up money within state government to pay for the program.
The governor said that even if he can find an alternate source of money, he is unlikely to find the full $2.9 million he had hoped to get from the Legislature.
When the South Dakota Senate took the $2.9 million in laptop money out of an education funding bill, senators said the money should instead be used to boost general state aid to schools.
Apa noted that some school districts, including Rapid City and Spearfish, are facing financial trouble.
"When you’re having trouble funding the present system, does it make sense to add programs?" Apa said. "If you don’t have funding to take care of your needs today, why are you putting in a new program for tomorrow?"
The governor should try again next year to win legislature support for funding the laptop program, Apa said. In the meantime, Rounds should not circumvent the Legislature’s intent by finding money elsewhere in state government to pay for the program, he said.
"He put a bill in. It didn’t pass," Apa said. "The Legislature said no. He should honor that."
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Mobile Computing resource center. Giving each student access to a laptop computer or other mobile computing device is having a profound effect in schools from coast to coast. As the number of mobile computing options for schools continues to multiply, the body of knowledge about which approaches work best (and which don’t work at all) also continues to grow. This resource will help you make the best possible decision for your students as you consider mobile computing in your own schools. Go to: Mobile Computing