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Originally published Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 3:31 PM

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Timing poor for schools chief Dorn's technology initiative

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn's timing couldn't be worse. The state Legislature cannot afford to give Dorn $2 million for a school technology partnership with Microsoft.

SUPERINTENDENT of Public Instruction Randy Dorn's $2 million legislative request for a technology partnership with Microsoft is bad timing at its worst.

Nothing wrong with a technology academy at every Washington high school. Students, teachers and administrators would receive training and opportunities for professional certification on Microsoft products

But it does not take a Luddite to know the timing of this proposal stinks. Proposed budgets in the state Legislature cut deeply into K-12 education. The pain of the budget ax will reverberate through the schools. If legislators did manage to find an extra million or two, it should not go to Dorn's venture but to help cushion the blow for schools.

Funding is the biggest impediment to Dorn's plan but it is not the only one. The schools chief must place his plan in context with other ongoing efforts — for example, Washington STEM, the business-led effort that has already raised $20 million for science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools.

The same context ought to be given in light of the nearly two decades of voter-approved technology levies passed by many districts around the state to pay for computers, software and training.

Some districts are on the cutting edge of technology, equipped with laptops, smart boards and other tools. Other districts barely have working computer labs. The schools chief must map out a priority list taking into account the varying differences in technology resources around the state.

Dorn tries to get at this with a proposed statewide rollout but it is unclear if all schools are ready. Those facing a severe budget crunch must find printers, copiers and paper before starting down this road. Staff must be trained to set up firewalls, security and student accounts. Microsoft will be a tremendous support, but school employees are responsible for technology education.

In a House committee hearing earlier this month, lawmakers posed a number of credible concerns about the proposal. Many questions went unanswered. Moreover, the state does not have $2 million to spare.

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