“This is not just about technology–it’s about using the technology to support education. Apple has been a great partner and consistently demonstrates that it understands the need to provide a complete solution that puts education first. We’re very excited about the new school year.”

But uncertain economic times and worries over available funds have caused some schools to opt out of the MLTI expansion.

Of the state’s 119 high schools, about half (57) will definitely take part in the program’s expansion, and eight are examining the requirements and planning. Fifty-four high schools have opted out of the program, mostly for financial reasons. Some state educators say they are uncertain as to what the program will cost in terms of local training and support, and they hesitate to participate during troubled economic times.

A spokesman for the Maine Department of Education said the one-to-one program’s cost is shared between the state and individual schools, and totals $68 million over the next four years–about $242 per laptop. The state will pay for about half of the total cost.

Now in a new fiscal year, Maine lawmakers will meet in July to determine where approximately $30 million can be trimmed from the state’s budget. The state’s budget has started shrinking for the first time in three decades, caused by a $1.4 billion revenue drop, according to state lawmakers.

Members of the state Appropriations Committee will examine changes and inefficiencies in the state’s government, which could lead to additional budget savings.

But trimming an already-slim budget will be difficult, because Maine’s revenues are expected to keep declining. Lawmakers say the state has spent $116 million in reserves to close gaps in the current and upcoming fiscal year.

Maine’s education department is distributing $27 million to state school districts that forfeited funds last November under Democratic Gov. John Baldacci’s spending restrictions. In February, Gendron said the state would use stimulus funds to restore the money.

According to an annual fiscal survey of the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers, 42 states–including Pennsylvania and Maine–had to go back into fiscal 2009 budgets and cut them owing to higher-than-expected declines in tax revenue.

Maine had to cut $74.6 million, and Pennsylvania eliminated $521 million.

“States will have to continue looking at spending cuts, using rainy day funds and possible tax and fee increases in order to ensure balanced budgets,” the National Governors Association said in its latest State Economic Review.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Links:

Classrooms for the Future

Maine Learning Technology Initiative

Fiscal Survey of the States

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ state recession informationa>