California's state schools chief is backing a $9 billion bond measure in 2014 to build up the technology infrastructure at K-12 campuses.
State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said Tuesday that California's schools must be prepared and outfitted to handle a dramatically new standardized testing system that will eventually require all students to be tested on computers rather than with pencils and fill-in-the-bubble sheets.
"There are big issues with bandwidth, Internet connecting devices," he said.
Bond money would not be used for devices like iPads, he said, but would focus on expanding and improving connectivity for all campuses. Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), is expected to sponsor the bill.
Privately funded polling to test voters' appetite for school spending is expected to be conducted in the coming months.
Voters in 2006 approved a $10.4 billion school bond package, including $7.3 billion for kindergarten through 12th grades capital projects. Of those funds, $318 million remains unreserved for projects in six categories including modernization, new construction and career technical facilities.
Last year, voters approved Proposition 30, temporarily increasing the state sales tax by a quarter-cent and income taxes on the wealthy by 1 percent to 3 percent. The move staved off what Gov. Jerry Brown said would have been $4.8 billion in cuts to K-12 education last year but did not infuse new money into education coffers.
"Some people thought Prop. 30 cured everything," Torlakson said.
California's third- through 11th-graders are set to test the new standardized testing system this spring.
California bucked demands of the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when lawmakers this month approved the suspension of the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program — a major component of the federal accountability system. Instead, students will participate in a field test of the Smarter Balanced exam that is being called a "test of the test" and will highlight how prepared schools are to give the exam entirely on computers.
While all tests must be administered on computers this spring, in the three subsequent years paper and pencil exams will be available to schools that can prove their technology is inadequate to handle the administration of the test.
"Testing the test" this spring will let school administrators know whether they are truly prepared for the spring 2015 when official test results will be released and counted.
"We don't want it to be like what happened in many states with the Affordable Care Act," Torlakson said of the rocky opening weeks of health care exchanges. Online registration has been riddled with problems.
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.