By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Area schools are slated to receive nearly $65,000 in technology money this month after an infusion of federal funds to Montana in November.
Gov. Judy Martz announced the distribution of $2.7 million to K-12 schools on Nov. 20. Of that, $1.75 million will be divided up among all of the state's public schools for technology programs.
The remaining $950,000 will be used for a variety of purposes, including reading instruction for students in grades K-3, vocational training, Indian education curriculum development, and implementation of No Child Left Behind, President Bush's education reform law, said Joe Lamson, communications director at the state Office of Public Instruction.
Montana received a total of about $73 million in federal funds, Lamson said. About $23 million is being used for Medicaid reimbursements and some is being used to cover the cost of fighting forest fires.
Of the $1.75 million for technology programs, about $64,647 will be divided among 31 area schools, according to a list on OPI's Web site. The money was divided on a per-pupil basis, Lamson said.
Havre Public Schools will receive about $13,145 for elementary schools and Havre Middle School and about $9,179 for Havre High School.
Havre Public Schools superintendent Kirk Miller said last week that the money will more than double the district's technology fund. There is now about $4,000 in the elementary and middle school fund and about $9,000 in the high school fund.
"It's helpful," Miller said, adding that for the last two years Montana schools have not received money from the normal source of technology dollars. A percentage of the money in the Timber for Technology Fund every year is allocated to districts, he said, but in recent years not as much timber has been cut on the state's school trust lands.
"It's never been a huge amount of money, but certainly it's been helpful," Miller said. A variety of other funds in the district budget are also used to purchase technology, he said.
The district should receive the money around the middle of the month, he said.
Other area school districts that made out well include Harlem with about $7,029, Rocky Boy with about $6,208, Chinook with about $5,156 and Box Elder with about $4,411.
Rocky Boy Public Schools district clerk Greg Holmlund said Monday the district will probably use the money to upgrade its computers.
Jay Eslick, superintendent of Chinook Public Schools, said there's not much the district can do with the money.
"It's not like it could do any great things. ... It might just go for some maintenance requirements and things," he said.
Several smaller rural schools were allocated less than $200 from the state. Schools with less than five students, like the Cleveland and Warrick elementary schools, will each receive about $63, and schools with about 10 students like Davey and Cottonwood elementary schools will each receive about $195.
North Harlem Colony School received about $128 for its five students. School administrator Eli Hofer said the school sometimes buys software with technology fund money. If it wants to buy hardware, it saves for a couple years.
"So it helps, you know. Every little bit helps," Hofer said.
Still, he said, it is harder for rural schools to put the smaller amounts to good use. Bigger schools could buy a computer, and 20 kids might be able to use it, he said.
"But if you have five kids, they can't buy that computer," he said.
Hofer said rural schools can buy technology and other supplemental materials with federal dollars through the Rural Education Achievement Program, which is designed to help rural schools pay for personnel and resources. The program is part of No Child Left Behind.
Debbie Childree, a teacher at Davey School, said her school has an adequate number of computers. She said there are probably more computers per student at the small schools than at many larger ones. The problem is that most of them are old.
"We have an adequate number of computers," she said. "It would just be nice if they were all new instead of (collected) over the years."
Of Davey's eight computers, two are new, but the others have been acquired from government agencies like OPI and the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the last five or six years, Childree said. As a result, the computers don't all have the same models of software. Some have three different versions of Microsoft Windows, for example, which can make coordination difficult.
"It's a nightmare to get them all linked and working together," she said.
Childree said the school will probably use its $198.52 for new software to make the computers more compatible.