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Selmer board denies One-to-One funding

The Selmer Board of Aldermen denied funding to the One-to-One technology program to the schools at its June 14 meeting.

The vote was 3-2 with Vice-Mayor Paul Simpson being joined by Aldermen Edward Smith and Lloyd Tennyson in voting no.

Aldermen John Smith and John Finlayson voted yes.

Education Department Technology Coordinator Terry Burns had asked for $2,500 from the board.

The matter had been postponed from last month’s meeting in order to give education department Burns a chance to make his pitch in person.

The One-to-One initiative provides students with laptop computers for in-class use.

There are currently 39 One-to-One classrooms, Burns said.

The goal is to have One-to-One classrooms in every in every school in grades 5 through 8.

“The research proves that (grades) 5 through 8 is the best place to begin,” Burns said.

Burns said One-to-One is in every school in fifth grade, and the goal is to establish the program in every sixth-grade classroom this year and in seventh-grade next year.

 “We got a little Race to the Top money last year and we’re hopeful we’ll get a little more this year to work with, but it’s still a long hard road,” he said.

Burns cited some statistics on technology and economic development.

“Increasingly, the internet is how and where business is done. It’s how people and businesses communicate information. It is the exchange where orders are placed and payment is made. Clearly, efforts to make broadband internet access available are a key component of today’s economic development picture,” Burns said.

He said that state businesses with high speed internet access, on average, make $400,000 more in revenues than those who do not.

Nearly half of businesses have a website, Burns said. In addition, every school in the county has a website, and the county itself has a website.

The number of businesses in the state that use broadband daily is 90,000, Burns said.

More than half of small businesses in the state use broadband access, including 37,000 businesses with fewer than five employees.

“We’ve got to teach these kids to use this technology. If you have a good teacher and the students have access to the internet, thats all you need,” Burns said.

In a later interview, Alderman Edward Smith said that he thought that the amount of the request was a bit more than the city could afford.

“The city budget is tight right now and we do not want to raise taxes,” he said.

Smith left open the possibility that the board might approve a smaller amount at a later time.

He also said that since it was a county program that city taxpayers pay for it anyway.

Tennyson agreed with this reason.“I felt like it was double taxation for the taxpayers of Selmer. They already pay county taxes, which fund the schools.” 

Simpson also cited this reason for voting against funding for this program: “The One-to-One program is a school board program. The school board is funded by the county. All county residents, including those of Selmer pay county taxes. I don’t think we have the right to spend city taxpayers’ money on something they already pay for as county taxpayers,” he explained. 

However, Simpson did say, “It’s a great idea. It’s a great program.”


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