Bill Aims For Digital Learning In All Alabama Classrooms

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A digital revolution worth $100 million could be coming soon to a classroom near you.

State lawmakers are now reviewing HB1, which aims to equip every school in Alabama with an array of high-tech gear ranging from laptops and iPads to infrastructure like wi-fi and ethernet networks. The borrowed funds would be raised via bond issue, and would be distributed in proportion to a school system's total enrollment.

Rep. Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) is one of the House Education Budget Committee members now studying the bill. Williams told WHNT News 19 that the legislation is similar to, but much broader than, a recent laptop initiative that was implemented in Huntsville City Schools.

"There's a national trend toward digital learning," said Williams. "We're probably behind the curve in supporting our schools with technology dollars...I think that does have a direct tie to jobs, and I think this is the type of initiative that Huntsville, Madison County and north Alabama needs to continue to prepare for research and development jobs."

The large amount of borrowed money is keeping some lawmakers from pledging full support for now. Rep. Williams told us he wants to keep reviewing financing options, and said his endorsement hinges on another key facet.

"I think we're leaning toward it if we can ensure that the local superintendents have control," said Williams. "We've got to make sure that our superintendents at the local level have full discretion on the money. It needs to come to them as a block grant."

HB1 is considered to be phase two of the Alabama Ahead Act, which was passed into law in 2012. That legislation set up a committee to oversee technology spending, but without authorizing any funding at the time.

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