Washington » Utah will use some of its federal stimulus money to pay for high-tech teaching software and new computer labs in Utah's poorest schools as part of an effort to use new technologies to boost test scores.
Utah schools superintendent Patti Harrington and Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. are still working out the details of how the state will spend its $500 million in emergency education funding.
But after a White House meeting Wednesday with education leaders from each state, Harrington promised big changes.
"We are virtually reinventing the schools with the stimulus money," she said.
The school superintendents met throughout the day to discuss the stimulus and education reforms supported by President Barack Obama, culminating in a speech by Vice President Joe Biden, who told them: "I came to make a plea with you to help us, help us use this money wisely."
Biden called the stimulus cash "a down payment" and promised if schools use it wisely that they would not want for resources while Barack Obama is president.
"This is going to be the education administration. That is not hyperbole."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said school systems will be judged on more than just saving or creating jobs. They must improve the education they provide.
"We are going to have a much higher bar than other folks receiving money in the recovery package," he said.
Harrington said Utah's school districts will use the two-year cash infusion to make major technological advancements.
Utah will receive about $57 million in additional money for Title 1 schools, which serve a high percentage of low-income children. Harrington wants to use that money on new computer labs, electronic writing software and individualized programs to help teach English as a second language. If these poorer schools don't have technology to rival that of more affluent schools, the kids "will never be able to catch up," she said.
Some of the stimulus cash could also help pay for an online writing assessment each year, expanded college-preparation tests and new computer adaptive tests. These adaptive tests, now being monitored in two school districts, respond to each student's aptitudes, creating individualized education plans.
Harrington will sit down with Huntsman on Tuesday to work out specific plans for the stimulus money, which should reach the state within the next few weeks.
$389 million to help schools and colleges avoid layoffs and program cuts
$110 million for special education
$57 million for Title 1 schools that serve high percentages of poor children
$4 million for Head Start
$1 million to help homeless students