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Part 2 of 5: Who pays? Finding the funds for every student

September 14, 2011

Senior Sam Hellinga, raises her hands in victory after she is informed that her MacBook problem has been resolved by Kameron Eisenhour, a member of the student technology troubleshooting team at Plymouth High School.

At $1,199 (the retail price for a MacBook), these computers don’t come cheap. A question in many people’s minds might be, where are schools getting the money to pay for these things?
Schools are relying on their usual budget, along with revenue from rental fees, to pay a lease for the devices from Apple. At the end of the four-year lease agreement, schools can either keep the computers or sell them back to Apple.
The funds to purchase Lincoln Jr. High School’s computers came partly from Indiana State Department of Education grants, partly from Capital Projects — the school’s equipment purchase budget, and partly from textbook rental fees, according to principal Dan Funston.
“It eats up a lot of my budget, but not all,” said Funston. “We just changed our priorities — we don’t buy things that aren’t as important.”
Funston said that he believes the cost of the equipment is well worth what he considers to be an investment into the student’s future. He said that kids need certain computer skills to be able to function in the workplace and in college.
“If they don’t have (those skills) when they leave here, we are doing the kids a disservice,” continued Funston.
LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School used part of its leftover funds from its building project to partially fund its computer lease. The rest is paid through a student rental fee of $230 per year. Principal Chuck Phillips noted that the cost to parents has only increased about 20 percent with the start of one to one.
“We’re applying for every grant out there, trying to get what we can to lower the cost,” added Phillips.
Phillips also said that in the past, parents were paying between $198 and $330 for book rental fees, depending on what classes the student was taking.
At Plymouth High School, Principal Jim Condon said that the computers are being paid partly by the school’s Capital Projects and partly by student rental fees, which are $60 per year. As Funston mentioned, some prioritizing of needs has been shifted.
“We may not have new paint or new carpet in all our classrooms, but we have new technology,” said Condon, adding, “Paint doesn’t help us learn.”
Condon said that for many years, the school has been fighting against students’ interest in technology. Now, motivated by state testing being moved to an online format, school administrators decided to take a different tact.
“We decided to take advantage of their strengths,” said Condon simply. “We were observant enough to watch how young people learned.”
Calling today’s generation part of the Digital Information Age, Condon added, “They learn differently than we did.”
The funds needed to jump start technology for every student is substantial, but Condon said that he believes initial problems will be ironed out.
“There are going to be some bumps in the road, and you have to accept that,” said Condon.

Tomorrow: “There’s an app for that” —computer use in the classroom and at home.

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