State officials knew there would be $16.5 million worth of disappointments when they announced the Idaho Technology Pilot Grant recipients on Monday.
With only $3 million to work with, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna knew that most of the 81 applications – totaling $19.5 million combined – could not be funded.
“We can’t forget these are just pilots,” Luna said. “Last Friday we contacted (grant recipients) and we could hear the cheers and excitement. Since then, we’ve received dozens of phone calls and emails from those who were disappointed.”
Reviewers said some applications, such as McCall-Donnelly High School’s student-led iPad proposal, stood out immediately. McCall High is a five-star school on Idaho’s one-to-five star rating system.
“Out of 81 proposals, there will always be some that are so-so and some that are great,” said reviewer Tracie Bent of the Idaho State Board of Education. “But even once we had the shortlist, it was still fairly difficult to get down to that 11 (that won grants).”
All of the applicants sought some sort of technology – most tailoring their applications around devices or laptops.
Most (36 percent of applicants) requested iPads, but laptops (22 percent), Chromebooks (16 percent) and other tablets (9 percent) were also in demand.
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The mix of schools applying was spread out: 20 elementary schools, 18 middle schools, 21 high schools and 11 charters applied for funding, with junior/senior high schools, a kindergarten academy, three k-12 schools and one entire district representing the others.
Funding requests varied on the low end from $8,027 for 60 Neo 2 computers at Blackfoot Charter Community Learning Center (which was not funded) to $891,200 for Chromebooks at Kuna Middle School (which was funded).
Most applicants sought between $100,000 and $600,000.
Applications came from across the state, from schools in Meridian, the state’s largest school district, to schools from much smaller districts such as Genesse, which has 274 students.
Schools from 59 districts and charters submitted applications. The Mountain Home and Cassia County school districts led the way with five applications each, while McCall-Donnelly schools submitted four applications.
Some large districts, such as the Nampa and Idaho Falls school districts, did not have any schools submit applications, while Boise only produced a singe application.
Northwest Nazarene University Associate Professor Cindy Orr, who has also served as a superintendent and building principal, scored between 15 and 20 grant proposals,
“ I feel all the grants I read were strong and had good ideas behind them,” Orr said. “I wish we had enough money to fund everybody – I really think this is where we need to be going.”