School faced with huge tech cost increase

Published: Jan. 21, 2015 at 8:35 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2015 at 1:20 AM EST
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Dr. Larry Clark
Dr. Larry Clark
Steve Dunn
Steve Dunn

BAINBRIDGE, GA (WALB) - One South Georgia county's board of education will soon see technology costs increase at an alarming rate.

Decatur county says changes to the federally administered E-rates system means local school systems across the nation will lose billions of dollars in funds.

Faculty and staff at Jones Wheat Elementary School are incorporating high tech equipment into the classrooms every day.

"Technology is the up and going thing for our kids to learn and the best way for them to learn. And they really, really enjoy the technology aspect," said Dr. Larry Clark.

A school board official says this equipment isn't just about having the latest and greatest.

"Especially in the rural section over here," said Technology Director Steve Dunn. "Some of our students, they go home and they don't have the adequate facilities at their home. They rely on the schools to provide it."

And until now Decatur County had financial help from E-Rates, a federally-administered program to help give discounts to telecommunication and internet services for schools.

"We were classified as a 90% e-rate funded school, which meant on our telecommunications side and our telephone bill, they would pay 90% and we would pay 10%," Dunn said.

But with recent changes to the program the county must pay a 20% increase every year for the next five years, until they ultimately take on the entire cost.

Clark says it took over a million dollars to provide new technology for this newly constructed school. He says it will all have to be updated in the next five years. But where will that money come from?

"What it will force us to do to go into a school and say, 'OK, you might not be able to have all of this, but tell us what's your most important area you want us to focus in,'" Dunn said.

Dunn says the changes to the e-rates plan has caused a delay in budgeting for this year. He hopes to have a budget by May.

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