Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taxpayer-funded laptops is a bad idea

State Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform proposal to give every Idaho high school student a laptop is a bad idea for a number of reasons.
While some have raised issues of safety, damage, Internet access and extracurricular use, I believe those issues can indeed be worked out and shouldn’t be a reason to not move forward.
But the Legislature should really look hard at whether we should use $5 million of taxpayer money to buy every freshman a laptop and another $2.4 million to maintain them — especially for families who can afford their own laptop or already have one. For such a conservative state, this sounds like a socialist idea.
I appreciate and respect Luna’s passion about delivering a 21st century education, and I’m glad that he recognizes most young people are already learning and communicating with instant messaging, handheld devices, tablets and laptops. But translating that into buying every student a laptop and letting them keep them after graduation just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps the state could supply laptops just to students who need them. Already, the state is talking about giving districts the option of limiting laptop use to the school day, checking them out in the morning and returning them at the end of school. In other words, these laptops would become in-school computers.
But schools already have many computers at school, and they probably have the best computers in town. I know Kuna does. So what’s the point of simply adding to a school’s cache of in-school computers? It’s simply wasteful and redundant.
It’s wasteful, particularly because the money for the purchase and maintenance of these laptops comes from cutting the amount of money the state would spend on the number of teachers in schools.
“In one sentence, you’re saying a laptop is more important than teachers,” Kuna Superintendent Jay Hummel told me last week.

You can read the rest of this opinion, and what I think about mandated online courses, in this week's Kuna Melba News.

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